Olympics feel-good factor boosts supermarkets

Supermarkets registered the strongest sales performance of 2012 in August thanks to the impact of the Olympics and better weather, according to the latest Nielsen figures.

Sales growth across the sector was 3.5 per cent higher than the same period a year ago, while sales volume increased 1.7 per cent year on year, driven by strong performance in “sharing” categories such as soft drinks, crisps, snacks and confectionery.

The increase reverses 18 months of declining volume sales, however Nielsen warns that underlying consumer confidence remains weak.

Waitrose continued to outperform the market reporting sales growth of 12 per cent in the four weeks to 18 August.

Separately, Waitrose has outlined plans to double the scale of its online business to 6 per cent of total sales by 2020, and eventually increasing it to 20 per cent.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph (2 September) Waitrose managing director Mark Price said that he would also look to double Waitrose’s store network to 600, including more convenience stores, as part of efforts to increase its market share to 10 per cent. It currently holds 4.2 per cent of the grocery market according to Nielsen.

Elsewhere, despite the Olympic boost in August, analysts have forecast that Morrisons will report a fall in like for like sales and profit later this week. The supermarket is expected to outline a raft of initiatives later this week to counter criticism over sluggish performance.

CEO Dalton Philips is expected to announce the launch of a non-food website and a discount scheme offering cheaper fuel when Morrisons’ customers shop with a number of partner retailers thought to include Next, Homebase and Boots.

Philips, who is coming under pressure for the slow roll out of its convenience business and development of its online channels, is also expected to accelerate the roll out of new ‘fresh format’ stores that have been trialled over the past year and further convenience stores.

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