If Christmas trading figures from the big five are anything to go by, it is no wonder Sainsbury is so desperate to pick up Safeway.
Its 2.8% rise in like-for-like sales, including petrol, came in as the lowest of the major multiples with even takeover target Safeway beating it after a strong performance over the Christmas season (up 4.2%).
But both Sainsbury and Safeway continue to see the biggest loss in market share year-on-year, according to our latest TradeTrak figures for the quarter to December 28.
Only Asda and Iceland saw an increase in share compared to the last quarter, up 0.2% and 0.1% respectively.
Tesco, which continues to dominate with a 22.4% share overall, saw a 0.4% decrease over the quarter and a 0.3% loss year-on-year. In its Christmas trading statement the UK's top retailer posted an 8% rise in UK sales for the seven weeks ending January 4 and a 4.8% like-for-like rise. Tesco said it had seen strong volumes of 5% during the period ­ reflecting the sector's deflationary pressure.
ACNielsen manager of retail services Mike Watkins said: "The latest 12 weeks' information for the Christmas trading period confirms that sales across the top five food retailers were highly competitive, and as is usual, there was a strong seasonal performance from Asda and Morrisons."
These two retailers are the only ones among the top five multiples to see any rise year-on-year, with Asda's growth at 0.5% and Morrisons' at 0.2%.
The Co-ops saw a year-on-year rise of 0.2% but share has slipped from its mid-year peak.