Tesco is estimated to have lost more than £3m off

the back of its failure to launch its non-food online delivery service on schedule last week.

It had planned to launch Tesco Direct on 6 September, but, due to IT problems, it did not go live until last Tuesday (12 September).

Analysts have suggested that the new business, which has cost £30m to set up, could be worth several hundred million pounds in its first year, while Citigroup has speculated that, in the medium term, the business could reach £2bn in sales.

Tesco finance director Andrew Higginson also said he expected its turnover to be in the hundreds of millions, breaking even "reasonably quickly".

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Tesco already has distribution set up for selling clothing online, with the hiring of one of the UK's biggest apparel van delivery businesses. The Home Delivery Network will initially be used by Tesco Direct for smaller items under 25kg, such as kitchenware and electronics. But the delivery firm, which has Littlewoods as its biggest customer, is a major operator in clothing.

Tesco has not confirmed plans to sell clothing online, but it is believed trials will begin early next year. It will also launch its Tesco Direct catalogue next week, offering 2,000 items.