The number of promotions has fallen month-on-month in each of the big four retailers – with the steepest cut not at Asda but Tesco. Elinor Zuke reports

Asda has finally started to deliver on its promise to wean itself off promotions. The supermarket reduced its total number of deals 8.7% in April compared with March [Assosia 4w/e 2 May], though the number was up 5.1% year-on-year.

The pattern was similar at Morrisons and Sainsbury's. Morrisons ran 2.1% fewer promotions in April, although the number was up a huge 26% on last year, while Sainsbury's deals were down 0.6% month-on-month but up 17.6% year-on-year. But the biggest month-on-month reduction was at Tesco, down 12.5%. It was also the only supermarket to post a year-on-year as well as a month-on-month decline, at 14%.

Waitrose, meanwhile, was the only one to increase its deals last month, upping them 3.6%. Its year-on-year figure was down 24.4%, however, and it continues to trail the big four by volume.

Morrisons remained the biggest promoter, with 1,931 offers, followed by Sainsbury's, with 1,856.

The gulf between the top three promoters has grown tenfold over the past year. In the four weeks to 2 May 2009, top promoter Tesco offered just 51 more deals than third-place Morrisons. This year, Morrisons is offering 525 more than Asda in third.

Beer promotions grabbed the headlines last week as the pre-World Cup price wars began with Tesco's £10 deal on 24-packs and Asda's counter-offer of £9. Beer and lager promotions were already up 52.7% last month compared with the same period last year, with 287 promotions.

But the highest number of promotions were for wine at 759, as Tesco and Waitrose ran wine festivals or showcases. Spirit promotions leapt 96.1% to 249, helping beers, wines and spirits overtake impulse as the category with the highest proportion of promotions.

While still representing a small part of the promotional landscape, produce and meat, fish and poultry enjoyed a surge in deals thanks to April's barbecue weather. Some 4.8% of all promotions were for meat, fish and poultry, compared with 1% last year, while produce made up 3.4% of promotions, compared with 0.02% last year.