Britain's largest grocers are cutting prices to the bone in a tense festive stand-off with shoppers that has left stores facing a Christmas ‘bloodbath’.
Food industry sources said sales at major supermarket chains, which have been poor for weeks, have crashed in the past ten days and left many stores struggling to match last year’s festive period.
Bosses at some major names are said to have been left reeling by declines of as much as 10 per cent on the weakest days compared to last year – possibly made worse by recent bad weather.
Experts suggested ‘subdued’ consumers have snapped up essentials in shops while cutting back on treats. They also said the relentless growth of Aldi and Lidl means spending is spread more thinly across more shops across the UK.
The result has been a pile-up of fresh stock for some stores.
The market is awash with huge discounts including Tesco’s price-leading 500g of sprouts at 19p – less than a penny per sprout. It is also selling whole salmon at £5.50, half the previous price.
Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s –which together with Tesco are the country’s four largest retailers – all have similar discounts on fresh produce.
Senior supermarket sources said chains were desperate to keep the products moving off the shelves with last week having been ‘worryingly slow’.
They added that even if sales recover as families stock up for Christmas, it could be too late to make up for lost income over the full festive trading period.
One senior source said: ‘We had hoped the Election would be the turning point but, if anything, things got worse last week. It will all come down to the next few days but there will be a mountain to climb just to match last year’s sales. At this point it’s looking like a bit of a bloodbath.’
Another said: ‘Retail directors are in the nightmare position of halting orders or giving their warehouses the green light and having it all piling up in the stock rooms at the back of stores if things don’t pick up. Cutting prices is compounding the problem and keeping sales figures subdued.’