THE north's grocery market saw sales drop by 1.8 per cent in the year to October 30, according to latest monthly figures from retail analysts Kantar.
And it said grocery inflation now stands at 8.4 per cent, the highest on record, as the average price per pack rose by 5.5 per cent.
Increases in average prices over the 52 weeks continue to be most noticeable with essential lines such as margarine (up 21.7 per cent), milk (up 21 per cent) and flour (up 17 per cent).
But shoppers are beginning to return to store more often, with visits up 1.6 per cent compared to this time last year, though they are picking up 8.8 per cent less volume per trip.
Over the latest 12 weeks, grocery sales grew by 3.7 per cent as shoppers returned to store more often (5.4 per cent) and average prices increased by 8 per cent.
Shoppers in Northern Ireland pulled back on Halloween festivities this year as pumpkin sales declined by 33.1 per cent, but their focus is clearly on the Christmas period as gifting chocolates, mince pies and fresh bacon joints sales have already soared by 29.8 per cent, 29.3 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.
Emer Healy, senior retail analyst at Kantar, said: “Tesco maintained its position at the top of the table and is Northern Ireland’s largest grocer with a 35.6 per cent share of the market.
“It welcomed an influx of new shoppers in store which contributed an additional £46 million to its overall performance.
“Lidl and Total Symbols are the only retail outlets to see growth versus last year up 0.2 per cent and 5.4 per cent respectively, as all other retailers declined.
“Lidl continues to see the strongest boost of new shoppers up by 4.8 percentage points which contributed an additional £16.5m to their overall performance."
Sainsbury’s holds 17 per cent share and saw a 1.6 percentage point rise in new shoppers.
Asda holds 16.4 per cent of the market this period and welcomed new shoppers in store contributing an additional £4.2m to their overall performance.