Elaine Watson & Anne Bruce
This year's Christmas sales in the independent and convenience sector were mixed, with strong performances from some multiple operators but lacklustre growth in the cash and carries.
Bestway trading director Younis Sheikh said sales were up only "slightly" on last year, and while Batleys said it was pleased with its festive sales, it would not say whether they were up on last year.
By contrast,Budgens posted a 4% increase in like-for-like sales in the two weeks to January 5.
Family-owned supermarket chain Booths enjoyed a 6% like-for-like rise in the three weeks to December 31. Licensed sales soared 17% over the period.
However, chairman Edwin Booth said his outlook for 2003 remained cautious, with a focus on refurbishment and inward investment. "We are holding back on substantial capex as we feel a slowdown is on the cards."
Mills Group MD Nigel Mills said like-for-like sales excluding phonecards were up 3.5% in the four weeks to December 28.
North east based Bells said festive like-for-like sales were up 3.5%, with strong licensed sales.
Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-op said December was "hard" after a buoyant November, but sales broke records on December 23.
Scottish convenience chain Morning, Noon and Night saw a 5.5% like-for-like rise in sales in Christmas week, with sales up 4% like-for-like over December.
The big three symbol groups were pleased with Christmas sales, although all saw regional variations. Costcutter md Colin Graves said sales were up 8.5% year-on-year but London suffered as the business community deserted the city.
Londis said some retailers reported performance high above expectation, while others said sales were "average".
Spar UK retail director Steve Blackmore said: "Growth was up on last year a few percentage points overall."

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