Symbols and independent stores have suffered a dramatic reversal in fortunes in just two months, latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel have revealed.
Sales were down 3.3% in the 12 weeks to 5 August, in sharp contrast to the 4% growth recorded by the multiples and the 3.9% hike in total grocery sales during the period.
The slump follows a 1.2% dip in sales for the 12 weeks to 8 July, but gains of 1.4% and 3.5% in June and May respectively. And it came despite the period coinciding with better weather and the opening week of the Olympics.
Symbols and independents also lost market share during the period - down from 2.3% to 2.2% against the year before.
Independent discounter Farmfoods saw sales slide 2.6% in the 12 weeks to 5 August. In contrast, rival Iceland racked up gains of 7%.
“Symbols and independents have been doing better over the past 18 months to two years, so the data is a bit of a surprise,” said Fraser McKevitt, a retail expert at Kantar Worldpanel. “But if you look at their market share over the past three years, it is more or less the same.”
Shoppers could be choosing to do their top-up shopping in stores owned by the mults, he added.
However, symbol groups insisted the data did not match their own figures. One told The Grocer its sales covering the same period were up nearly 4%.
“Talking with members, there is no evidence of sales slowing and in general terms our members are pleased with the trading conditions at the moment,” it added.
More worrying for indies arguably is the reversal of fortunes by Tesco. The data showed it recorded growth of 3.4% in the 12 weeks to 5 August - against just 0.7% in July, 1.8% in June and 1.9% in May.