How the cost of a big shop really differs between supermarkets

January 27, 2017| by Nielsen Press Room

New data released today reveals the true extent of the difference in the cost of doing a big shop at the discounters versus the most popular supermarkets.

When looking at trips where at least 20 items were bought, the average cost ranges from £31.28 in bargain stores to £58.85 in Waitrose, according to Nielsen retail data. It reveals the average spend on the “big shop” at the discounters is £38.76 compared to £53.16 across the Big Four and £58.52 across Waitrose and M&S.

“In simple terms, a big shop at the discounters is nearly £15 cheaper than one at the big four and £20 cheaper than at Waitrose and M&S,” says Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight.

The study – from Nielsen’s Homescan data which measures actual purchasing among 15,000 British households – also reveals that shoppers are adding more frequent, smaller grocery trips alongside the “big shop”. People now make 5% more grocery trips than they did two years ago, which means the average amount spent, on the big shop has dropped 5% to £50.58.

“A few percentage points may not sound significant but in an industry worth £145 billion a year, small changes mean billions in sales,” says Watkins. “The move to ‘little and often’ is a symptom of busier and more time-pressured lifestyles as well as financial concerns of wasting food. Thus, supermarkets have made huge investments in the convenience store format to meet this demand and offer a greater variety of food and drink. Their historical role for purely immediate or ‘distress’ purchasing is long gone.”

Small trips – baskets of less than six items – account for over half (53%) of grocery trips, while medium trips (6-20 items) account for 34%. The remaining 13% are for trips to buy over 20 items. However, due to their size, the “big shop” accounts for just under half (46%) of grocery spend, while the smallest trips account for 17%.

Aldi and Lidl’s share of “big shop” trips is now 13% compared to just 7.4% for trips of up to 20 items. If their current growth rates continue their share of the big shop will more than double within five years.

Consequently, Watkins says the ‘macro’ picture of people buying groceries more often and the corresponding rise in smaller baskets “masks the threat affecting the true heartland of the top four supermarkets – how the discounters are eating into the “big shop”. Although it represents just 13% of trips, they’re the vital battleground to protect as they account for almost half of grocery spend.”


All basket £ spend data is 52 weeks ending 31 December 2016
All basket % share data is 52 weeks ending 13 August 2016


The Nielsen continuous 15,000 GB household panel is geo-demographically balanced and designed to measure household purchasing through a wide range of channels and categories. Baskets are based on everyday grocery items including: packaged grocery, confectionery, soft drinks, beer/wine/spirits, delicatessen, bakery, dairy, fresh produce, meat/fish/poultry, frozen, plants & flowers, household and health & beauty.


Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers Watch and Buy. Nielsen’s Watch segment provides media and advertising clients with Total Audience measurement services across all devices where content — video, audio and text — is consumed. The Buy segment offers consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers the industry’s only global view of retail performance measurement. By integrating information from its Watch and Buy segments and other data sources, Nielsen provides its clients with both world-class measurement as well as analytics that help improve performance. Nielsen, an S&P 500 company, has operations in over 100 countries that cover more than 90 percent of the world’s population. For more information, visit


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