An improving economy may have resulted in fewer offers this month compared with last year, but activity is still up month on month, says James Ball

January traditionally marks a high point in the year for retail promotions as stores seek to shift their surplus Christmas stock and clear the decks for the new year. Though January offers are less significant for supermarkets than the rest of the retail sector, this month's Promo Dynamic shows they're still going strong.

The number of offers was up month-on-month in all the big four retailers [Assosia 4w/e 22 January 2010], fuelled partly by high-profile January savings ad campaigns, and partly by a promotional shift away from non-food gift items back to core grocery.

But in quantity, at least, this January has not been the biggest-ever for offers: three of the big four had fewer featured space deals than this time last year reflecting the improved retail environment at the start of 2010 versus last year, when global economic panic was at its highest.

Asda was the retailer to buck this trend, and did so in a big way: where its big four rivals slashed offers by an average of 4.9%, Asda had 19.2% more deals this January than last though as The Grocer revealed two weeks ago, some Asda prices did increase over and above the VAT hike. Own label also had a resurgence this month, after losing ground in featured space to brands in the second half of last year.

Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury's all had significantly more own-label lines on their gondola ends this month than they did last January. This was most obvious at Morrisons, where own-label deals more than doubled, rising from 5% of the total to 11%.

Money-off deals continued to dominate, while half-price deals continued to increase in share up from 24% of all offers to 27%. Bogofs continued to fade away, making up fewer than 1 in 20 of this month's promotions.

Alcohol remained the most-promoted category, but its lead continued to slip, down from 26% of all offers last January to 22% this year. Impulse products remained the second-most promoted lines, but the number of deals here fell also.

Fresh meat, fish and poultry had the biggest increase in offers, upfrom 3% to 5%.