Asda's nine-month reign as The Grocer 33's cheapest supermarket for non food has finally come to an end. The fourth report in our quarterly basket survey of 33 commonly bought items shows that, after months of tussling with Tesco for the non food pound, Asda has been knocked off the top spot by its rival.
The latest report reveals that the total cost of Tesco's shopping basket, which includes clothing, stands at £177.81 - 62p cheaper than Asda's and a whopping £8.38 cheaper than it was in our last report, a little more than two months ago.
This result is a real turnaround for Tesco, whose shopping basket was more than £2 more expensive than Asda's in February.
Tesco has adopted a particularly muscular price-led stance over the past few months, as well as a renewed value message.
A quick trip down Tesco's non food aisles instantly reveals that it has extended the ranks of its Value product range, which at present stands at 2,000 lines across non food and food items. A spokesman says: "We are constantly adding to our Value range. For instance, last year we added around 900 new non food Value lines."
Closer inspection of our shopping list reveals Tesco is also currently matching Asda for price on 26 of the 33 products on our list. That's ten more than in our last report, when the two retailers had just 16 identical prices. Tesco has also been busy lowering price points on many of its existing and more iconic non food products, particularly those in the electrical kitchen appliances sector.
Tesco's cheapest microwave, stainless steel kettle, steam iron and toaster have all had money shaved off since our last report, and the retailer is now 75p cheaper in this sector than it was last time. Tesco says that it will continue to keep a keen eye on prices in the run-up to summer and, now that it has announced plans to increase its sourcing of household utensils from India by 66% this year, price points look set to continue falling.
In fact, analysts predict that the cheap electrical appliances sector could soon become the latest stage on which the supermarkets could wage a price war - and with customers now able to deck out their kitchens for small change it's easy to see why.
At just £5.48, Asda currently has the cheapest two-slice toaster. Morrisons has the most expensive toaster on our list, but at £5.67 it's only 19p more expensive than Asda's and still offers the customer a chunk of change from a tenner.
"With such low ticket prices, these types of items have become a key battleground for harnessing impulse purchases. The supermarkets have a huge advantage here and it is for this reason that other specialist electrical retailers are retreating," says Nick Gladding, analyst at Verdict Research.
The cost of our 33-item basket at Asda now stands at £178.43. While this is not enough to fend off Tesco, it's still £5.99 cheaper than it was in our last report - that's more than the price of a toaster.
While Asda comes second in terms of the cheapest overall basket price, closer inspection of our shopping list reveals that, at £160.68, its basket excluding clothing is actually the cheapest of the four.
Asda also currently has the cheapest double duvet, wooden spoon, pizza cutter, and four-pack of batteries on our shopping list, proving that when it comes to low prices it still has plenty of pocket-patting clout.
And, after three years in the planning and a massive £30m investment, Asda has also recently launched a new George Home collection, comprising 2,000 new products ranging from bedding to bath accessories, cushions and candles. Further new collections will appear every season with lighting, furniture, luggage, and dining ranges in the summer and autumn.
Despite reducing more prices than any other multiple since the first reportback in August, Sainsbury is still only the keeper of The Grocer 33's third cheapest basket.
The cost of its first 33-item shopping basket was £254.56. Today it stands at £216.26 - that's almost £40 cheaper. Further analysis of our latest report also reveals that Sainsbury has now honed its price-cutting strategies on clothing.
Comparison with the last report shows that it has halved the cost of its cheapest women's black trousers from £12 to £6 and reduced its cheapest women's jeans from £8 to £6. It has also reduced the price of its cheapest women's blouse.
Clothing remains a critical sector for the supermarkets and one that still offers a vast opportunity for growth.
"Supermarkets continue to take market share in clothing. Asda clothing turnover is well in excess of £1bn and Tesco is catching up rapidly. The high relative gross margins that can be made are just too good to be ignored," said Richard Ratner, analyst at investment bank Seymour Pierce.
And, for the consumer, the prospect of picking up a poncho with their peas can brighten the drudgery of the weekly shop. A recent survey of more than 2,000 British consumers by Harris Interactive revealed that 61% of shoppers at Asda, and 53% at Tesco, felt that non food ranges made their shopping experiences more enjoyable.
This is one area in which Morrisons has yet to venture, but its basket excluding clothing reveals that the retailer is getting a firmer grasp on its price-cutting strategies.
Ringing in at £189.29, Morrisons' basket is now £5.20 cheaper than it was in our last report, following price cuts on its cheapest stainless steel kettle and microwave.