Aldi sales jumped by more than 40%, while Asda was the fastest-growing of the Big Four, said Nielsen

Aldi sales jumped by more than 40%, while Asda was the fastest-growing of the Big Four, said Nielsen

Asda and Aldi enjoyed the fastest sales growth in the UK in the run-up to Christmas, according to data issued by Nielsen.

In the four weeks to 24 December, Asda saw its sales increase 10.7%, while Aldi had what Nielsen described as a "stellar growth" of sales of over 40%.

Nielsen's data is for till sales and not like-for-like sales, which excludes the impact of new stores.

The researchers said Asda's sales were boosted by "a growth in shopper penetration" across its stores but said the retailer's performance was boosted by former Netto stores converted to Asda's supermarket banner. Aldi's "award-winning advertising" persuaded a "flood" of new customers through the discounter's stores, Nielsen said.

In total, UK grocery multiple retailers saw their sales increase 5.5% in the four weeks to Christmas Eve.

Mike Watkins, senior manager for retailer services at Nielsen, said: "Overall, this was a disloyal Christmas, with retailers experiencing more shopper visits and more 'new' shoppers than last year, as consumers shopped around for choice and range as well as the best deals and deepest promotions."

Nielsen said the "spending dam finally burst in the week before Christmas" after consumers held back on their spending in late November and early December.

Earlier today, Morrisons chief executive Dalton Philips, reporting the retailer's sales results for the six weeks to 1 January, agreed that UK consumers had held off spending. "In our last week, sales were up 25% on a two-year period for those seven days," Philips said.

Morrisons said its total sales in the six weeks to New Year's Day increased 2.9%. The Nielsen data claimed the retailer's sales in the four weeks to Christmas Eve were up 5.9%.

Sainsbury's saw its sales increase 6.7%, Nielsen said, while Waitrose's sales climbed 8.8%. Tesco, the UK's largest retailer, saw its sales increase 3.2% in a market that Nielsen claimed grew by 5.5%.

Despite the increase in sales value, volumes have been under pressure for a number of months. However, Watkins claimed there had been a recovery in volumes towards the end of 2011. "It was a strong end to the year with underlying unit (volume) sales growths back into positive territory at +0.9% for the first time since the end of May," he said.

The Nielsen data on volume appeared to be in conflict with Morrisons. Richard Pennycook, the retailer's finance director, said the UK grocery sector had seen industry volumes "down all year" and, although Morrisons declined to provide data on its volumes in the six weeks to 1 January, it said shoppers had put less into their baskets over the period.