Nielsen: UK supermarkets boost advertising budgets to encourage consumers to spend

In an effort to counter slowing sales growths since the summer, the UK’s major supermarkets have spent 14% more on TV and press advertising in the four weeks to mid-October than in the same period last year.Meanwhile, aggregate sales value growths for the UK’s leading supermarkets during the four weeks ending 12 October 2013 were up just +1.8% year-on-year; unit sales (volume) decreased -1.9% year-on-year – according to the latest retailer performance figures released by global information and insights company Nielsen.Explaining the figures, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, Mike Watkins, said: “The weak sales growths are indicative of consumers being reluctant, unwilling or unable to spend – despite their slightly more optimistic outlook in recent months. Consequently, to encourage sales, in-store promotional spend is being maintained at 35% of sales, with particularly high levels at Waitrose (41%) and Morrisons (40%).

Strongest category growths – in confectionery and soft drinks – driven by promotions
The strongest category growths were in the heavily promoted categories of cofectionery (+8.6% value year-on-year) and soft drinks (+4.9%), the latter also benefiting from September’s warm weather.
The weakest growths were in packaged grocery (-0.1%) and household (+0.3%) – two FMCG categories where the discounters, such as Aldi and Lidl, are consistently growing market share.TV and press advertising spend
Driven by Morrisons, TV and press advertising spend by the 10 leading UK supermarkets in the four weeks ending 12 October was up 13.8% over the same period a year ago to £28.3m.

Morrisons was the highest spending food retailer on TV and press in these four weeks (£5.0m), followed by Tesco (£4.0m) and Asda (£3.7m). Iceland had the biggest year-on-year increase in spend (up 426% to £2.2m) followed by the Co-operative (up 167% to £2.1m).

Watkins said: “On the back of its significant increase in media spend, Iceland has continued a gradual gain in market share, despite industry-wide softness in the frozen food category where value growths of +0.7% remain lower than overall inflation. Sainsbury’s has also increased market share and strengthened its position as the overall number two retailer across the industry.

“Retailers will be hoping the recent rise in consumer confidence translates into increased shopper spend and more encouraging figures for Christmas and 2014. But to drive sales in the meantime, we anticipate they’ll continue increasing ad spend to support their Christmas campaigns and promotions.”