Supermarket sales rise over Easter - but prove egg-sasperating for Tesco, Morrisons and Asda

Emma Haslett
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Sales were up across the sector - but fell at Tesco, Morrisons and Asda (Source: Getty)

It could have been so easy for supermarkets.

Not only are prices at an all-time low, but an early Easter pushed sales up compared with last year, new figures have shown. But while the Easter bunny hopped along to most of the nation's retailers, the big four continued to struggle.

The figures, by Kantar Worldpanel, showed sales across the sector rose 1.1 per cent in the 12 weeks to the end of March - with Lidl and Aldi the big winners: sales rose 17.7 per cent to £1.1bn and 14.4 per cent to £1.5bn respectively.

(NB. Last year retailers blamed an early Eater for hitting sales in April - there's more than one way to skin a cat)

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The Co-operative was a surprise hit - sales rose 3.9 per cent to £1.6bn during the period, the figures showed, while at Sainsbury's, sales rose 1.2 per cent on the same period in 2015, to £4.2bn.

But it was a different story for their more traditional rivals. Asda was the worst-hit, with sales falling 3.9 per cent to £4.2bn. Meanwhile, at Morrisons, sales fell 2.4 per cent to £2.7bn (although that may have something to do with the fact it has closed stores), and at Tesco, sales fell 0.2 per cent to £7.2bn.

Iceland was also hit, with sales falling 3.2 per cent to £517m.

"An early Easter gave the market a sales boost of £152 million compared to last year, adding 0.6 per cent to the overall growth rate," said Fraser McKevitt, Kantar Worldpanel's head of retail and consumer insight.

"Britain’s love of all things sweet was in evidence, with 63 per cent of households buying at least one chocolate egg during March, spending an average of £12 over the month. Over half of the population bought hot cross buns, while 15 per cent purchased a fresh leg of lamb for their Easter celebrations.”

Meanwhile, separate figures from Nielsen showed the value of sales during the four weeks to 26 March rose 2.5 per cent on the same period last year - again, thanks to that early Easter.

The news pushed down supermarkets' shares, with Tesco falling nearly two per cent to 187.2p and Morrisons falling one per cent to 199.1p. Sainsbury's fell 0.2 per cent, to 276.3p.