Tesco is set for a “strong finish” to the year heading into the vital Christmas trading period, according to Nielsen.

Data released today shows Tesco grew at 2.5% in the 12 weeks to December 8 ahead of rivals Asda at 1.4% and Morrisons which slowed 0.9% although Tesco still trails Sainsbury’s at 3.4%.

Nielsen UK head of retailer insight Mike Watkins said: “Tesco are now in a much better position than last year for a strong finish to Christmas.”

Last year the UK’s largest retailer was forced to issue a profit warning in January after a poor Christmas when vouchers issued by its competitors drew shoppers away from Tesco.

He said: “While the market has slowed since the start of October, Tesco growths have improved and there was new momentum in the last four weeks – helped by the continued use of vouchers and coupons as well as some in-store promotional offers that resonated with shoppers. Tesco are now in a much better position than last year for a strong finish to Christmas.”

Aldi continued its barnstorming growth recording a 43.6% advance in the 12 weeks to December 8. Waitrose rose 8.5%, Lidl 10.1%, Marks & Spencer 1.3% and The Co-operative 1.4%.

The total UK grocery market was up 1.3% in the four weeks to December 8.

Watkins said: “The sluggish sales figures are partly due to shoppers delaying the big shopping trips until the final week before Christmas when fresh foods are also purchased. Because shoppers are planning visits to take advantage of the many offers available this year we, therefore, expect continued use of media spend across all channels in the next few days to encourage them into store and to buy any remaining indulgencies at the same time.”

He added: “With Aldi and Lidl also promoting premium food and drink in a big way and targeting more affluent shoppers this Christmas, there is still a lot to play for this weekend.”