Ahold sees rise in Dutch customers as US suffers

STRONG growth in the Netherlands and central Europe helped Dutch grocer Ahold overcome tough trading conditions in its main US market and post a fourth-quarter sales rise in line with expectations.

Ahold, which runs Dutch market leader Albert Heijn but makes about 60 per cent of its sales in the United States, said yesterday shoppers remained under pressure and focused on promotions in all of its markets, especially the US.

Retailers across Europe and the United States are worried about their ability to pass on higher costs of goods like groceries and fuel at a time when consumers are being hit by austerity measures aimed at cutting government debts.

Ahold, with around 2,900 stores in 11 countries, said it made net sales of €7bn ($9.4bn) in the last three months of 2010, broadly in line with analysts’ forecasts. The company’s share price remained stable.