They have slashed the number of branded lines on promotion in high-value featured space by 16% in 2008 compared with 2007.
Some have given their own-label lines a significantly greater share of prime space, according to the figures compiled by promotions tracker Assosia. Asda has increased own-label products in this space from 13% of the total in October 2007 to 20% this year, for instance.
"The supermarkets have faced a real dilemma this year," said Assosia MD, Kay Staniland. "They've really wanted to promote their own-label ranges, and in Tesco's case their new discount brands. Since these are cheaper products - not reduced ones - they don't count as promotions. But featuring them like this has meant reducing the amount of featured space they sell to branded suppliers, which was a real money-spinner. A lot of branded promotions are still there, just less prominent."
But in stark contrast to a Which? report claiming supermarkets were exaggerating the size of their discounts, Assosia's analysis of more than 4,900 deals in October shows average discounts have substantially increased year-on-year. The average branded promotion now offers a £1.88 saving, up from £1.62 last year. The typical own-label reduction is now £1.15, up from 88p. Discounts and half-price offers have overtaken multibuys as the promotional mechanic of choice.
Alcohol has increased its share of promotional space this year and now comprises almost a fifth of all featured space deals. Wine has overtaken beer as the most-promoted liquor, with the typical saving up from £3.01 in 2007 to £3.69 in 2008.
"These figures show how competitive grocery retail has become," said one senior executive. "Wine and beer is a major driver of footfall: people will switch retailer for the right deal."