Britain’s grocers gearing up for massive price war amidst fears unemployment could rise above four million
- Supermarket bosses are scrambling to show they are competitive on price
- They are worried that German discounters Aldi and Lidl will make further gains
Britain’s grocers are gearing up for a massive price war amidst fears unemployment could rise above four million.
More than 14,000 jobs were lost this week as a coronavirus jobs bloodbath hit the economy.
The jobs cull has left supermarket bosses scrambling to show they are competitive on price as household budgets are squeezed due to the crisis.
They are worried that the German discounters Aldi and Lidl will repeat the sort of market-share gains made after the 2008 financial crash.
This week, one industry source said: ‘Price is going to be everything over the rest of the year.’
Food price inflation has risen to 4 per cent, running far ahead of the 0.5 per cent rate of inflation, putting yet further pressure on household budgets.
Since the coronavirus pandemic has struck, Sainsbury’s have lowered prices on 300 products, on top of their eight-week ‘price lock’ on 1,000 of their items.
Chief executive Simon Roberts said: ‘With rising unemployment pressure on consumer spending we’ve got to make sure our offer is really relevant.
‘We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on the value in our offer and invested in price. We have taken gains from discounters.’
Morrisons said it had cut ‘and held down’ the price of 450 customer favourites, adding in half-price promotions such as, this week, half-price beef brisket and mackerel.
‘Price lock’: Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts
And last week Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket, doubled down its price war expanding its ‘Aldi price match’ promise to 500 everyday items.
Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis said: ‘I don’t see why anyone should pay more for a brand at Tesco than anywhere else.’
The supermarket claimed it had seen net switching gains of customers to Tesco from Aldi ‘for the first time in over a decade’. Aldi and Lidl have always claimed that, despite promotions, their products remain as much as a fifth cheaper than those offered by rivals.
But the Big Four grocers have found a trump card during the pandemic in online shopping.
They have been able to double their capacity during the lockdown gaining thousands of new customers, with many experts saying the trend of buying online will not go away soon.
Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons are delivering to 2.8million households each week, while the discounters are close to zero. That compares to around 1.5million before the pandemic.
Price war: Last week Tesco , Britain’s largest supermarket, doubled down its price war expanding its ‘Aldi price match’ promise to 500 everyday items
Next week Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver his plan for rebooting the economy.
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called it the ‘last chance to save hundreds of thousands of jobs’.
But hundreds of thousands of jobs have already been lost during the lockdown, and this week some major companies went into administration, or shed staff, in an attempt to survive.
There is a particular concern for the retail and the hospitality sector – that today takes its first steps out of lockdown with many pubs and bars opening – which have been starved of cash for the last 14 weeks.
At the same time, businesses are facing up to the furlough scheme being pared back from August 1.