Asda exceeds its 2009 activity, leading the October charge on deals with 28.6% more promotions than this time last year. Elinor Zuke reports

Promotions soared across the big four last month, with 26.6% more featured space promotions in stores than there were in September.

The biggest monthly increase was at Tesco, which had a third more deals than during September, according to Promo Dynamic figures from Assosia.

Despite this, Tesco remained the least promotional of the big four. Morrisons stayed ahead, bursting through the 2,000 barrier to offer 2,114 deals just 125 fewer than during the peak of the World Cup.

Yet, while monthly increases in deals were fairly consistent across the retailers, the annual changes tell a different story. Asda, which claimed it had allowed itself to become “too promotional” in 2009, actually had 28.6% more promotions this October than last. The increase is sharp by most standards, but especially when it dwarfs the next biggest rise (Morrisons’ 12.3%) and Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have fewer deals year-on-year.

The emerging picture is of an early battle for consumer spending during the crucial ‘golden quarter’. However, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, which have the strongest market share growth, according to Kantar Worldpanel (12w/e 3 October), appear to have been more relaxed about entering the promotional fray.

Overall, the promotional intensity increased fairly evenly across all categories year-on-year, though confectionery, carbonated drinks and impulse increased their share (0.9%, 1.84% and 0.8%) in the run-up to Halloween.

The biggest fall was in BWS, which made up 17% of the mix compared with 21.2% last year. Grocery deals increased the most and were up 2.5 points to 12.2%.

Alcohol promotions at Tesco fell sharply from last year’s 22.4%, accounting for only 8.7% of its total deals this October far less than any other retailer. At Waitrose, on the other hand, 41.2% of deals were in the BWS category compared with 32.1% last year. These came at the expense of deals in chilled, impulse, petcare and produce.

‘Extra free’ deals have been making a small but significant comeback. The promotional mechanic was nowhere to be seen last October, but this year accounted for 3.5% of deals at Morrisons and around 1.5% of promotions at Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

The proportion of multibuy deals also increased month-on-month at Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda, while Tesco and Waitrose increased their use of price-cut mechanics.