UK supermarkets increase promotional levels by as much as 76% in last week, insight shows


Many UK supermarkets have increased their promotional levels in the last week ending 17May, with online grocer Ocado raising its levels by as much as 76% compared to the week before, reveals new insight from analysts at global retail insights firm Edge by Ascential.

As well as increasing its promotional levels significantly, Ocado trebled the number of multi-buys on offer in the week ending 17th May, a significant move that shows that maintaining stock levels appears to be less of a concern to the retailer now. Edge by Ascential also found that both Waitrose (44%) and Tesco (15%) also increased promotional levels in the past week. However, despite this hike in promotions, levels at Ocado (-36%), Tesco (-33%) and Waitrose (-15%) were still relatively less than those seen in January 2020 before the COVID-19 outbreak. 

In a separate analysis, Edge by Ascential also monitored the stock levels at UK supermarkets in the last week ending 17th May. The data reveals that Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose all had increases in stock levels, with Morrisons having the greatest increase in products by 3.6%.

Frozen dough and pastry remained the most out of stock category this week, despite an increase in availability by 5.6%. This was followed by dry pasta (-0.2%) and toilet roll (2.1%).

Edge by Ascential analysts also observed the following changes in the last week ending 18th May:

  • Asda had a large decrease in availability in many of its own label products mid-week, yet this seems a conscious decision by the retailer to control its stock levels, as similar branded items were unaffected
  • Facial tissues (10%) had the biggest increase in stock levels in the past week. This was led by Waitrose, which increased its levels by 33.3%
  • Bleach saw the biggest change in out of stock levels (-8.8%) compared to the previous week, but its availability was relatively more stable than the likes of frozen dough and pastry, dry pasta and toilet roll.

Edge by Ascential is continually monitoring the online stock and promotional levels of essential products at major UK supermarkets in light of the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This follows from the UK government’s instructions for UK consumers to remain at home in a ‘lockdown’ that was implemented on 23rd March in order to control and minimise the spread.

Chris Elliott, insight manager at Edge by Ascential, said: “As the UK lockdown eases, so have the concerns of British consumers, who are less focussed on stockpiling grocery items. This has now given many UK supermarkets the confidence to increase their promotional levels. It is also leading them to focus on other areas of their business, such as expansion plans with delivery partners, such as  M&S and Aldi’s recent partnership with Deliveroo, Sainsbury’s expansion with Chop Chop and Morrisons’ growing partnership with Amazon Prime Now. This follows the surge in demand for online grocery shopping, which retailers are evidently investing in, and we expect that the convenience of online grocery shopping is still set to increase even after the lockdown is over.”