A decade or so ago the most exciting electrical appliance you were likely to find in a supermarket was an egg whisk or blender. These days, however, consumers are as likely to end their shop with a television or DVD player in their trolley as they are a bag of frozen peas.
The multiples have powered into the electricals market over the past five years with Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury and Morrisons now regarded by many consumers as electrical retailers in their own right.
What's more, Verdict Research predicts that by 2010 supermarkets will control a 6.2% share of the electricals market, up from 4.3% on the previous year, as customers switch allegiance from specialist high street retailers.
Consumers are making more electrical purchases in supermarkets, attracted by the fact that in many cases they can buy a kettle, toaster or iron and get change from a fiver. Even the latest technology is going for a song, with some retailers selling flat screen televisions for less than £200.
Verdict Research estimates that the average spend per household a year on electricals in the multiples is already £33. This figure is set to rise this year, it says.
It is therefore no wonder that electrical manufacturers are starting to recognise the importance of being stocked on retailers' shelves.
Emma Newton, product group manager for the breakfast range at electrical manufacturer Morphy Richards, says: "Through selling cut-price electricals the multiples have developed a reputation as electrical retailers. It is key for manufacturers to secure listings in them to be able to capitalise on this growing segment of the market."
Sarah Peel, spokeswoman for electrical manufacturer Braun, also says that the multiples are key customers. "Their ability to provide a one-stop shop for all consumer needs means that we need to ensure that we maximise our presence with the right products at the right prices," she says.
According to Tesco, its one-stop shop approach has allowed it to compete against high street retailers such as Currys and Dixons by encouraging them to buy electrical goods while making their weekly shop.
"Without a doubt, we are able to compete against high street electrical retailers," says Matthew Finch, Tesco's electrical buying manager. "Our customers visit our stores frequently. Whether it is a distress purchase or a considered purchase they can find what they want with the convenience of parking and the added bonus of Clubcard points." The grocery retailers' impact on the market is clearly being felt by the opposition. This month Dixons became an online retailer with its existing stores changing to a new Currys.digital format in a bid to encourage customers back to the more established suppliers.
However, Sandra Pierce, product manager at Russell Hobbs, believes that although the multiples may be convenient for consumers, those that spread themselves too thinly are in danger of being beaten by more specialist retailers that have better trained and more knowledgeable staff.
"The downside is customer advice and knowledge," she says. "High street specialist stores may continue to win in this area by training staff well, who can then offer help and advice to consumers that the grocers cannot."
Despite this, in October last year a Harris Interactive survey of 2,000 people conducted exclusively for The Grocer found that almost one in four people would choose Tesco over a traditional high street retailer for large electrical goods.
The multiples are naturally reporting success in their electrical ranges. Asda sound and vision buyer Matthew Harrison says that the bestselling electrical appliances at Asda are LCD (liquid crystal display) televisions, standard CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions, set-top boxes and DVD players. Tesco's Finch says that televisions, kettles, computers and paper shredders sell well.
Sainsbury has been slower to react, but while it has not expanded into electricals to the same extent as Tesco and Asda, late last year it launched an online site selling kitchen appliances.
Meanwhile, Tesco and Asda have both launched standalone non food formats with electrical appliances playing a big part, and rumours that Tesco could be planning to launch a home shopping catalogue could also expand its reach further.
Finch says that Tesco is already making plans to expand its in-store offering this year. "We are always looking for new products to introduce into our ranges - it is essential in order to give our customers what they want," he says.
Asda is also planning to introduce new products this year, but has not yet revealed its plans.
But, as Richard Ratner, analyst at investment bank Seymour Pierce explains, the category has seen nothing yet. "Supermarkets are taking market share in small electricals. However, they have not got into it in a huge way yet. There is still a long, long way to go."
Asda sound and vision buyer
Tesco electrical buying manager