The immediate weeks after Christmas are an odd time for supermarkets. Even before the last turkey sandwich has been polished off, retailers start devoting space to diet and healthy food, and even making room for Easter goods.

Despite this, the latest figures for deals from promotions specialist Assosia provide an interesting snapshot of the big retailers’ strategies at the start of the year.

As would be expected, all the mults were running fewer deals over the past four weeks than at the height of Christmas trading. But it’s the year-on-year comparisons that shed most light on their varying approaches to pricing and promotions.

With 2,600 deals in featured space over the past four weeks, Tesco had by far the biggest number of deals as it continues to promote its way back into growth. It ran 10.5% more deals than during the same four weeks a year ago, when Sainsbury’s had the most deals.

Sainsbury’s actually offered 11.9% fewer deals than a year ago, reflecting the fact its January pledge to invest £150m in cheaper pricing went into new regular prices for about 700 lines. Customers were also saving less money than a year ago – its average saving per item is down 2.7%.

Tesco, Morrisons and The Co-operative Group were also offering smaller average savings than a year ago.

Asda, which announced 2,500 Rollbacks earlier this month, not only ran 10.2% more deals than last year, but its average saving was also up by 6.8% as it looks to fight the discounters on price and widen the gap between itself and the other traditional supermarkets.

Waitrose appears to be pursuing a similar plan. While the number of promos was only up 1.5% on last year, its average saving was up 5.8%. This reflects the half-price sale it has been running in January on more than 600 lines. Waitrose shoppers this month enjoyed average savings of just over 31% per deal, compared with 29.3% a year ago.

The sale, which is expected to fuel Waitrose’s best-ever January, focused primarily on branded goods, resulting in a marked uptick in its branded-to-own label deal ratio. This time last year, 81% of Waitrose offers were on brands compared with 85% over the past four weeks.

4 weeks to 18th January 2015
Number of offers20768352114238026001190
Number last month20978692270246628011194
% change m-o-m-1.00%-3.91%-6.87%-3.49%-7.18%-0.34%
Number last year18847962176270023541172
% change on last year10.19%4.90%-2.85%-11.85%10.45%1.54%
Average start price (£)£3.10£4.10£4.57£4.41£5.23£6.53
Typical Average £ saving£1.34£1.58£1.84£1.73£1.97£2.19
Typical Average % saving29.49%35.64%35.26%30.23%32.29%31.06%
Average % saving last month28.73%36.94%35.77%31.79%32.66%31.05%
% savings change m-o-m2.65%-3.52%-1.43%-4.93%-1.16%0.02%
Average % saving last year27.60%37.12%35.40%31.07%33.52%29.34%
% savings change on last year6.83%-3.99%-0.42%-2.72%-3.69%5.84%
Current Brand:own-label ratio88:1276:2488:1279:2182:1885:15
Ratio 1 year ago85:1574:2687:1378:2282:1881:19
Average % saving (branded)30.83%37.30%36.15%30.92%33.53%31.27%
Average % saving (o/l)19.44%30.43%28.87%27.68%26.40%29.87%

Published in The Grocer, 24 January 2015

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