Waitrose emerged as the surprise winner among grocery retailers announcing their Christmas sales this week, although Tesco is expected to emerge triumphant when it reports next week.
Waitrose reported like-for like sales up 3.6% in the seven weeks to January 8. With the help of 19 stores bought from Morrisons, it achieved its first £100m week. MD Steven Esom said: “Customers were making more trips to our stores than we had forecast and were spending more per visit.”
Tesco is expected to announce massive sales increases next week. Asda, which does not release figures separate to Wal-Mart, also fared well over Christmas but remained well behind Tesco, according to ACNielsen (see above).
The festive season proved less successful for the other multiples. For the six weeks to January 9, like-for-like sales under the Morrisons fascia remained flat, up just 0.1%. The company said it had been affected by cannibalisation resulting from Safeway conversions, the loss of a trading day and “aggressive” promotions by other retailers taking on divested Safeway stores. Safeway like-for-like sales were down by 8.4%. Despite the poor figures, a spokesman said: “We believe the performance of Morrisons is acceptable in the short term - especially given the tough 2003 comparatives of 9.6% like-for-like main store growth.”
Sainsbury’s like-for-like sales in the four weeks to January 1 were up 2.5%, but fell 0.4% excluding petrol. The supermarket also issued its third-quarter trading statement this week showing like-for-like sales for the three months up 2.4%, but down 1.2% excluding petrol.
A disappointing Christmas and increasing grocery price deflation meant recovery expected in the third quarter did not materialise for The Big Food Group. In the five weeks to December 31, like-for-like sales were down 3.5%. It said trading at Booker and Iceland “remained difficult”.
M& S brought forward its trading statement because of disappointing results. However, it said food sales had improved. In the six weeks to January 1, they dropped 1.7% like-for-like, compared with a drop of 2.9% in the 13 weeks to January 1. A spokesman said: “While our food business traded disappointingly throughout October and November, trading showed some improvement over Christmas.”