Every paper highlights Asda’s woeful 5.8% fourth quarter sales collapse. “It was the weakest performance of all the ‘big four’ UK grocers over the crucial Christmas trading period and the worst in Asda’s history,” summarises The Daily Mail. The Guardian notes the figures represent the sixth consecutive quarter of declining sales, while The Telegraph says the “dismal trading numbers heap pressure on chief executive Andy Clarke”. The Times (£) leads with the supermarket price war sending Asda to this new low, while The Financial Times (£) says the main culprit is discount operators opening new stores and luring British customers with a narrow range of cheap food.
Asda’ parent Walmart reported its first annual sales decline since at least 1980, underlining the stiff challenges it faces competing against Amazon in ecommerce while coping with the impact of the strong dollar and a loss of share at its UK Asda stores (The Financial Times £). While The Times (£) writes: “Walmart reported yesterday that it was making inroads as it chases more urban and affluent customers and responds to demands to improve pay and conditions for its workers, but this was not enough to impress investors.
Elsewhere, Procter & Gamble is slashing another $10bnfrom its costs over the next five years as newly-installed chief executive David Taylor vows to make the world’s largest consumer goods company a leaner operation amid a persistent struggle to raise sales growth. (The Financial Times £)
Morrisons is investing £30m in providing discounted coffee, free Wi-Fi and more comfortable rest areas for store employees as part of its efforts to create a happier shopping experience for customers and staff. (The Guardian, The Financial Times £)
Scottish craft brewer BrewDog plans to tap the US for cash as it readies for expansion into America. The maker of Punk IPA on Thursday said that it planned to run an “equity for punks” crowdfunding campaign in the US in May. It is hoping to emulate the success of its British funding round last year, which raised a record £5m in the first three weeks. (The Financial Times £)
Meanwhile, The Scottish brewery released draft results showing annual turnover up 52% to £45m, as it more than doubled UK sales thanks to a growing thirst for craft beer. While the company is yet to release a full set of accounts for 2015, it said operating profits had grown by 112% annually since 2011. (The Guardian)
The £4.4 billion merger of Ball, of the United States, and Rexam is set to complete in the first half of this year, with both can makers already talking to potential buyers of parts of the business required to be sold by competition regulators. (The Times £) However, Rexam saw its profits flattened by the costs of its sale to US rival Ball. It reported pre-tax profit up 1% to £362m for 2015, but when costs and restructuring charges are taken into account, profits fell by 27% to £250m. (The Daily Mail). The company struggled in North American last year, due to a decline in demand for carbonated soft drinks. (The Telegraph)
While politicians and chief executives fret over the downturn in North Sea oil activity, the water of life has seen its value to the UK economy increase by 1.6% to more than £5bn. The Scotch Whisky Association said that there were bumper levels of expansion at the moment, with nine new distilleries opening in the past two years and about 40 more in the pipeline. (The Times £)