2023 will leave the traditional big four vulnerable and ripe for consolidation or aquisition.

As well as being an important profit contributor, a strong Christmas share performance is a great indicator of how retailers will fare in the coming year. So all eyes will be on their performance in this upcoming crisis-hit Christmas.

And this year, we’ll no doubt be watching the discounters clean up. Over Christmas 2018, Aldi and Lidl posted a staggering 10% sales growth. This was particularly significant because Christmas had previously been a challenge for the discounters, which lacked the premium perceptions needed to succeed over the festive season. That year marked the end of that now long-forgotten discounter stigma – they had finally won the hearts of UK shoppers.

This Christmas will see a small step towards the discounters for hard-up shoppers, and a giant leap for Aldi and Lidl shares. In 2023, dynamics such as range, price and promotion reductions will all cement that position.

The mainstream supermarkets will have to pull these levers to compete, but they are a compromise on their classic strategies, The discounters, on the other hand, are already there. They have small ranges, reducing stockholding to increase return on investment. They have low prices that set the benchmark – as evidenced by Aldi price-matching schemes. While others mess with their mix and de-escalate promotions, the discounters are already in EDLP heaven.

And there’s more. In struggling markets, there is a strong tendency towards community, and a feeling that ‘we are in it together’. ‘Community’ has been a marketing constant for the discounters, helping establish them at Britain’s core. Take, for example, the holiday hunger initiatives over the summer. With the exception of Waitrose, the UK supermarkets all offered a variation of: adult spends a fiver for their child to eat for a pound. Meanwhile, the discounters went down another route, investing £500,000 (Lidl) and 700,000 meals (Aldi) via community schemes.

Plus, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – I’m not sure what to call that collective now that Aldi has overtaken Morrisons as one of the ‘big four’ – all lack a meaningful international organisational footprint underpinning them. Discounters have that.

Aldi is now writing to suppliers announcing its move to a more system-based and data-driven trading environment, closing that one competitive gap.

So, 2023 will leave supermarket groups vulnerable and ripe for consolidation or acquisition, fuelling speculation about Amazon’s appetite. Amazon is clearly serious in grocery, having tipped the billion-pound threshold and falling under GSCOP as a result – learning in the process that you can’t describe delisting policy as ‘CRAP’ (cannot realise a profit).

Its forays into grocery so far have been ‘LIMP’ (lacking in meaningful penetration). But I don’t think it will pounce on one of the supermarkets in 2023, despite Sainsbury’s looking like an easy target.

Amazon represents a future retail winner and broken formats aren’t in its interest. It’s more likely there is just nothing on the grocery market it wants, and it will patiently rebuild its market-in-waiting from the bottom up.