Aldi has increased ad spend by 36% compared with last year.

All the major supermarkets have unsurprisingly “significantly” increased TV and press advertising spend since the end of November as they look to attract shoppers during the peak Christmas season, according to Nielsen.

Supermarkets are thought to be spreading marketing spend over a longer period this year and concentrating activity in the final weeks because Christmas falls on a Tuesday which means the 23 December, usually the busiest trading day, falls on a Sunday.

Tesco was the highest spending supermarket on TV and press investing £1.8m in the four weeks ending 2 December. Asda spent £11.2m, Sainsbury £7.3m and Morrisons £7.1m.

Aldi was the next highest spender investing £6.5m, a 36 per cent increase on last year.

The percentage of items bought on promotion remains at an all-time high of 36 per cent as retailers support festive ranges with in-store promotions. On the high street retailers are already turning to sales to drive footfall and attract shoppers.

Sales growth for the UK’s leading supermarkets slowed during the four weeks ending 8 December with a 1.3 per cent increase year on year. A decrease on the 2 per cent rise recorded in the previous four weeks.

General merchandise sales continue to drag the overall sales growth with food and drinks sales holding up better than expected, according to Nielsen.

Tesco is now in a “much better position” and set for a “strong finish” to the year as a result of its promotional strategy including vouchers and coupons, according to Nielsen. The latest figures show growth of 2.5 per cent at the supermarket in the three months to 8 December, outpacing Asda and Morrisons.

Asda recorded growth of 1.4 per cent, Sainsbury’s saw 3.4 per cent while Morrisons was the only supermarket to see a fall in sales growth, declining 0.9 per cent during the period.

Aldi, which made the biggest year on year increase in marketing investment, saw 43.6 per cent sales growth.

Nielsen UK head of retailer insight Mike Watkins, says: “The sluggish sales figures are partly due to shoppers delaying the big shopping trips until the final week before Christmas when fresh foods are also purchased. Because shoppers are planning visits to take advantage of the many offers available this year we, therefore, expect continued use of media spend across all channels in the next few days to encourage them into store and to buy any remaining indulgences at the same time. With Aldi and Lidl also promoting premium food and drink in a big way and targeting more affluent shoppers this Christmas, there is still a lot to play for this weekend.”

The latest figures from The Office of National Statistics, also out today (20 December), show that sales were flat in November as shoppers held back from early spending amid economic uncertainty.

British Retail Consortium agrees that Christmas shopping in November was “cautious” but says that spending was “building at a respectable pace” in December. The BRC expects performance overall to be “neither a bumper Christmas nor a disaster.”