A mix of advertising, promotions and vouchers brought success for Asda.

Asda stole a march on rivals to be crowned ‘king of Christmas’ among the big four grocers, pipping Sainsbury’s in the contest for seasonal spend.

The acquisition of Netto 18 months ago, favourable comparisons and a strong mix of advertising, promotions and vouchers gave Asda the edge.

Asda delivered 10.7% sales growth in the four weeks to December 24, while Sainbury’s increased 6.7%, according to Nielsen data.

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said he had expected Asda to be crowned ‘big four Christmas king 2011’ and observed: “If the data is correct Asda has materially stepped on from the improving trading momentum recorded in the autumn and has gained market share.”

An Asda spokeswoman said it had “worked hard to deliver value” and had invested in service over the festive period. Sainsbury’s also performed well. On Wednesday it reported a “record-breaking” Christmas when non-food and its online grocery business proved strong.

Like-for-like sales excluding petrol, but including store expansions, rose 2.1% in the 14 weeks to January 8 on last year.

Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King said it had benefited from its multi-format offer with top-up shops combining with bulk buys to add 1.5 million more customer transactions on last year at 26 million in the Christmas week.

Morrisons recorded a 0.7% increase in like-for-likes over Christmas, which Black described as “surprisingly disappointing”.

Black said: “Morrisons mis-positioned itself for Christmas as it is quite difficult to trade up in.

But Dalton Philips quite clearly has a programme of work to modernise store layout and maximise range in place.”

As Retail Week went to press, Tesco was expected to report its worst Christmas for decades. Kantar data issued on Tuesday showed Tesco’s sales rose 3.3% over the 12 weeks to December 25.

Kantar communications director Edward Garner said: “Asda and Sainsbury’s were clearly bushy- tailed, Morrisons has nothing to be ashamed of, but Tesco appears to have hit a bit of a ceiling.”

Garner said that there could be a “dog fight” for market share among the grocers in 2012.

Beyond the big four

Kantar observed a “two nation” polarised market allowing Waitrose to prosper alongside discounters such as Aldi and Lidl – which both increased basket size – and Iceland.

Nielsen data suggested Aldi recorded a “mammoth” 40% sales increase in the four weeks to December 24.

Food sales propped up performance at Marks & Spencer, which chief executive Marc Bolland said recorded a “stellar” 3% increase in food sales against a 1.8% decline in general merchandise to deliver group like-for-likes of 0.5% in the 13 weeks to December 31.

The Co-operative’s like-for-like sales rose 3.1% in the four weeks to December 31. In the week leading up to Christmas like-for-likes jumped 16.1%.