SuperValu and Tesco scrap for retail top spot as sector slowly recovers
Tesco and SuperValu are neck-and-neck in the race to claim Ireland's biggest grocery retailer crown.
New figures show that Tesco controls just 0.3 percentage points more of the market than SuperValu, with Dunnes still in third spot as it spends tens of millions of euro to lure shoppers by offering money-off vouchers.
Data from research group Kantar Worldpanel shows that Tesco's market share slipped 2.1pc to 25.2pc in the 12 weeks to February 1.
SuperValu's share edged just slightly higher to 24.9pc.
Tesco has been fighting to maintain control of the top spot since Cork-based retail group Musgrave, which controls the SuperValu brand, rebranded all Superquinn stores as SuperValu outlets this time last year.
Dunnes gained 1.7pc in the latest period to maintain its third place on the podium with a 23.8pc market share.
It was the best performer of all grocery retailers in the period, and recorded its strongest growth since last summer.
Dunnes attracted an additional 17,000 shoppers through its doors in the 12-week period, and has seen its basket spend increase by 3pc to just over €35 on average.
Aldi and Lidl have continued to make strong in-roads.
Aldi's share of the market rose 11.5pc to 8pc, while Lidl's climbed 12.5pc to 7.4pc.
Kantar said that over 60pc of Irish households shopped in either Aldi or Lidl in the past 12 weeks. Lidl saw shoppers visit its stores more often, while Aldi has continued to see shoppers spend more during each visit.
Georgieann Harrington, insight director at Kantar, said it was interesting to see positive trends in the grocery market continue in the post-Christmas period.
"The battle for shoppers will continue well into 2015 and this will create more value for Irish households as retailers go head to head," she predicted. The Irish grocery market grew by 1.2pc in the latest period - its 11th consecutive period of growth.
Tesco staff are bracing for possible jobs losses in the weeks ahead, as the embattled retailer cuts as many as 10,000 positions - most of them in the UK.
Tesco is shutting or won't open 43 stores in the UK and is also axing jobs at its corporate HQ. Chief executive Dave Lewis revealed last month that the retailer - fighting an accounting scandal and a tough domestic market - would close its long-time headquarters.
Tesco is also removing a layer of middle management.
Dunnes Stores, meanwhile, is also facing challenges. It has been effectively buying market share through its popular voucher offer and it's difficult to know at this stage how many of its extra shoppers it will retain once it halts the promotion.
Industry sources said the chain has also been squeezing suppliers of late for better deals.
Trade union Mandate has also started balloting its 5,000 Dunnes Stores members for industrial action.
The union wants the retailer to engage in talks about contracts and pay.
The ballot is due to be completed by March 6.