Sainsbury’s “upbeat” festive food sales performance was let down by a 4% fall in general merchandise as demand for toys and video games fell at Argos (The Financial Times £). The supermarket’s total sales in the run-up to Christmas fell 0.7%, worst than analyst estimates, despite strong performance in food and clothing sales, up 0.4% and 4.4% respectively (The Telegraph). A slump in demand for toys and video games knocked Sainsbury’s sales over Christmas and overshadowed a strong performance in its clothing and online divisions (The Times £).

CEO Mike Coupe said customers chose to be “very careful” in the way they spent their cash, hence the decline of toy sales. He however, claimed Sainsbury’s had “outperformed rivals” after cutting prices on budget items and improving its Taste the Difference range (The Guardian).

Sainsbury’s posted its fifth quarter in a row of falling sales in what it described as a “highly competitive” market. Industry data meanwhile, showed supermarkets grew at the slowest pace since 2015 in the so-called “golden quarter” (Sky News).

Commenting about Sainsbury’s performance, The Financial Times (£) writes that Coupe’s startegy of “being better at selling groceries” to recover from the failed Asda merger is helping the grocer “more than a little”, after grocery sales rose 0.4% in the 15 weeks to 4 January.

On-the-go baker Greggs raised its profit forecast, for the fifth time since launching its vegan sausage roll last year, following what it described as an “exceptional year”. It now expects pretax profits to be “slightly higher” than previous estimates, with analysts’ consensus at £111m (The Financial Times £). The huge success of its vegan sausage rolls has prompted Greggs to raise its profit forecasts for the fifth time as the high street bakery chain continues to “defy gravity” (The Times £)

Following the strong trading performance, which saw sales up 13.8% in 2019, Greggs said it would make a £7m bonus payment to around 25k staff members (The Telegraph). Employees will receive up to £300 each in their pay packets this month, with shop floor staff and managers being awarded the same amount (The Guardian, BBC).

Greggs however, warned the company faced “headwinds” in the coming year from national living wage increases and higher pork prices (Sky News).

In a comment piece, The Telegraph argues Greggs’ performance makes it “far more than just another fast food outlet”. The baker’s performance stands out from the sorry state of the UK’s high streets because it has been able to tap into changing customer tastes (The Telegraph).

High street pharmacy chain Boots has launched a strategic review of the business aimed at cutting costs and automating processes after sales dropped 2.9% in the three months to November (The Financial Times £). Investors knocked $3.1 billion off the market value of Walgreens Boots Alliance after it reported another disappointing performance by its British pharmacies (The Times £). Boots’ US onwer blamed the UK market for falling sales, with revenues at the wider WBA group rising 1.6% to $34.3bn (The Telegraph). 

The UK retail sector suffered the worst year on record in 2019 according to the BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor as shoppers were let down by continued political uncertainty ahead of Brexit (The Financial Times £). The latest figures reveal a 0.1% drop in total sales for 2019, the first negative year since reporting started in 1995 (The Telegraph).

Impossible Foods has pulled out of the race to supply meat-free hamburgers to McDonald’s, opening the way for Beyond Meat, its closest rival, to win a potentially lucrative contract. (The Times £)

China’s outbreak of African swine fever has reshaped the meat trade as pork prices soared to record highs. China, the biggest consumer of pork globally, has resorted to import pork, beef and chicken relaxing previous trade restrictions (The Financial Times £). 

Two senior executives at McDonald’s have filed a lawsuit against the company accusing it of racial discrimination against African-American customers and staff (BBC).