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Tesco top in UK Christmas trading battle - Kantar Worldpanel

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The nation's biggest supermarket chain saw sales rise 3.1% in the three months to the end of December, cementing its 28% share of the United Kingdom grocery market.

However, market share growth at Aldi and Lidl continued to outpace the Big 4, with the German discounters both recording sales rises of 16.8 per cent. The news comes after yet another round of job cuts at its head office with the firm having made significant culls of staffing in the last 18 months.

Bradford, northern England, based Morrisons said group like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, rose 2.8 percent in the 10 weeks to January 7, the bulk of its fourth quarter - well ahead of analysts' average forecast of growth of 1.7 percent and third quarter growth of 2.5 percent. Sainsbury's, the No. 2, reports on Wednesday and Tesco updates on Thursday.

Aldi's share of the entire United Kingdom grocery market rose from 6% to 6.8% and Lidl's from 4.4% to 5%.

Alcohol sales grew by 5.1% year on year, with spirits leading the charge: up 7.6% as consumers opted to invest in premium gins and whiskeys. Iceland grew sales by 2.9%.

Kantar said that this was the fastest sales growth the retailer has seen since June, helped by a 6.4 per cent increase in sales of standard Tesco own label.

Asda, owned by Walmart, increased sales by 2.2% in the period to December 31, while 2.1% more came through the tills at Morrisons and Sainsbury's was up 2.0%, the research group said.

"Shoppers parted with 747 million pounds on December 22 alone, making the Friday before Christmas the busiest shopping day ever recorded".

"For most of the year, location tends to be the most important factor in choosing where to shop, but over Christmas customers are actually prepared to travel further in search of specific festive products or better value".

"Shoppers are splashing out despite fewer promotions to tempt them", McKevitt said. "Only 36 per cent of spending was on items on offer this year - the lowest level of promotional activity at Christmas since 2009", McKevitt said.

Like-for-like retail sales, which exclude new store sales, rose 0.6% last month, down on December 2016's 1% rise.

The latest United Kingdom grocery market share figures published Tuesday by Kantar Worldpanel showed consumers spending GBP1 billion more than previous year in the Christmas festive period.

"Rising to the challenge, Aldi and Lidl collectively managed to attract almost one million additional households during the past three months".

The Co-op was the only grocer to have recorded a decline in sales, with a 0.2 per cent drop, and its market share also dipped 0.1 per cent to 5.2 per cent.