Since last year, Tesco has put another£1.5 billion between itself and Sainsbury’s at the top of the UK retailing league, despite the latter raising its game. The top five remains the same, but Alliance Boots has moved up into sixth place following its merger; previously Boots on its own had been in eighth place and Alliance Unichem was lingering in the thirties.
Elsewhere in the upper echelons, there are many changes of a place or two – hardly surprising with no less than 20 retailers with sales between£1 billion and£1.9 billion. The German grocery discounters Aldi and Lidl have continued their move up the ladder, both breaking into the top 20, partly a result of an upward revision of their estimated sales. The merger between the Co-operative Group and United Co-operatives in mid-2007 is also likely to result in the combined operation entering next year’s top 10. Littlewoods has been the main loser in the top 20 following the group’s exit from the high street to concentrate on home shopping, falling nine places from 14th in the process.
Among the value fashion retailers, Matalan may have stalled – and has now been taken private – but the other main players have continued their upward march. TK Maxx has jumped 13 places to take the 35th spot, overtaking rival Primark, which itself moved up a couple of places. However, the biggest riser of all is Sports Direct International, up 14 places to 32nd. New Look, previously 43rd, is now in the top 40.
Phones 4U has continued its upward momentum, rising another nine places to 41st, while moving sharply in the opposite direction in that area is MFI, down 11 places to 48th and DIY group Focus, down five notches to 47th. All of the latter three have changed hands recently. Martin McColl is not a newcomer to the top 50 – it is simply the new name for the former TM Group, now reflecting its main trading fascias.
Last time, 16 of the top 50 retailers experienced static or declining sales; this time that fate befell only nine companies, although it was close for three or four others, whose sales only just edged ahead. Again, the bar for qualification in the top 50 has been raised, but this time only by£40 million to£670 million. By a quirk of the table, Wickes’ sales were more than£100 million higher than last time, yet it remained stubbornly in 36th place. And extending the list to the top 100 has brought a new name into the frame: Zavvi, the buy-out fascia for Virgin’s Megastores that Sir Richard Branson has sold to management.
Such is the level of concentration in UK retailing that, on the basis of the league table, Retail Knowledge Bank calculates these top players accounted for the following proportions of all UK retail sales in the 2006/07 year:
Category Proportion of UK sales (%)
Top 5 38
Top 10 50
Top 20 61
Top 50 74
Top 100 83