The grocery giants are making an earlier-than-ever play for Christmas spend and deploying new measures to appeal to shoppers inclined to spread the cost of the festivities.

Jittery confidence and resulting caution about spending have prompted retailers to chase sales immediately and win repeat custom with reward initiatives.

Walmart-owned Asda performed a u-turn with the launch of voucher books rewarding customers who spend £40 with vouchers worth the same amount to be redeemed during November. The retailer has traditionally eschewed such schemes but suffered as rivals deployed reward and loyalty schemes last Christmas.

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said: “We sense an attempt by the main food retailers to help the consumer spread the cost of Christmas with more space and lines allocated earlier than is the norm.”

He described Asda’s initiative as “a new addition to the loyalty and promotion fray” and said “the utilisation of loyalty cards, coupons and now voucher books seems to have taken a step up”.

Argos this week also launched a voucher offer, running until Sunday, rewarding customers who spend at least £50. It has run such schemes before.