Supermarket sales rose for the first time in more than eight months according to new data from Nielsen, as sales grew 2.5% year-on-year for the four-week period ending March 26.

An early Easter this year provided a boost to the supermarkets as they welcomed the first genuine year-on-year growth since July 18 last year (up 0.4%). Sales volume for the four-week period increased 1.3%, halting a run of six consecutive declines.

During the 12-week period ending March 26 the polarisation of the market continued, as Aldi and Lidl enjoyed the biggest increases in year-on-year sales at 16.0% and 16.7% respectively, while Marks and Spencer and Waitrose saw growth of 4.2% and 2.9% respectively. Sales at The Co-operative also rose 2.1% as the supermarket established a 5.5% market share. However, Asda (-4.7%) and Morrisons (-2.3%) experience the biggest declines in year-on-year sales, while Tesco (0.1%) and Sainsbury’s (1.4%) experienced modest growth. 

Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at Nielsen UK, said: “Although the early Easter gave retailers a welcome boost, sales during the core two-week Easter trading period were down 2% versus last year, due to deflation and further price cutting. Only confectionery, alcohol and, to a lesser degree, some fresh foods provided positive industry growth. Getting back to sustained sales growth really requires deflation to be replaced by low inflation. 

“With two peak sales events in the last four weeks, Mothering Sunday and Easter Saturday, M&S and Waitrose were particularly adept at using media campaigns to highlight their seasonal and indulgent food and drink offerings. They harnessed the trend of shopping around for the most attractive offers and promotions. 

“Tesco, Sainsbury’s and the Co-operative should continue to perform well over the next six months. The trend of buying ‘little and often’ seems set with shoppers, finding it convenient to visit local neighbourhood stores as a complement to out-of-town shopping.”