Tesco (LSE: TSCO) and J Sainsburys (LSE: SBRY) shares appear to offer value right now. After a strong run earlier in the year, Tescos share price has pulled back by around 10% over the last six weeks, putting the stock on a P/E ratio of around 13.3. Meanwhile, Sainsburys shares have fallen significantly over the last few months after the planned merger with Asda fell through and now trade on a P/E of just 9.3.
However, despite these low valuations, Im still not tempted to add these stocks to my portfolio. Thats because, in my view, the landscape for these supermarkets is likely to remain extremely challenging.
Only a few weeks ago, I was discussing the persistent threat that the German discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl present to the big four supermarkets. With the low-cost rivals looking to open hundreds of new stores across the UK in the next few years (including smaller local stores that are likely to be a hit with consumers), the likes of Tesco and Sainsburys are going to find life quite difficult in my opinion.
Recent statistics appear to back up my view. For example, according to the latest data from Kantar Worldpanel, the UKs big four supermarkets all failed to register to growth in the 12 weeks to 19 May. For the period, Tescos sales were flat, while Sainsburys sales declined 1.7%.
Meanwhile, their low-cost competitors continued to make strong progress, with sales at Aldi jumping 8.5% and sales at Lidl surging 11.1%. Clearly, theres a big difference in momentum here. Chris Hayward, consumer specialist at Kantar, commented: The discounters continue to attract customers with nearly one million more households visiting Aldi compared with last year and an additional 630,000 shopping at Lidl.
As a result of this lack of growth, both Tesco and Sainsburys have lost market share recently. Tescos market share has now fallen to 27.3% from 27.7% a year ago, while Sainsburys market share has declined to 15.2% from 15.7% a year ago. At the same time, Aldi and Lidl now have a record high combined market share of 13.8%.
Aside from the German discount supermarkets, there are other threats that could also derail growth at the retailers. One clear threat is Amazon, which launched its AmazonFresh business here in the UK in 2016 and is looking to beef this up in the near future.
Prices at AmazonFresh are considerably lower than prices at the big four supermarkets. For example, research last year found that a basket of 50 different goods at AmazonFresh was 11% cheaper than the same basket at Tesco and 19% cheaper than at Sainsburys. With that kind of price discrepancy, I think the big four should be worried, as Amazon could potentially grab a large slice of market share as consumers continue to embrace online shopping.
So overall, the outlook for Tesco and Sainsburys looks challenging in my view. As a result, I dont see much appeal in the shares of either company. I think there are much better stocks in the FTSE 100 to invest in right now.