Ocado boosted by Christmas shopping rush

 
Kasmira Jefford
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ONLINE grocer Ocado said it enjoyed a very merry Christmas after posting a 14 per cent rise in gross sales to £91.6m in the six weeks to 6 January.

“It was a very good festive season for us, evidenced by growth in orders, basket size and sales,” chief executive Tim Steiner said.

“As has been seen elsewhere in our sector, Christmas has amplified the fact that shopping online for groceries is of increasing importance for consumers,” he added.

Gross sales in the week to Christmas were up 17.1 per cent at £21.8m while sales of both Ocado own label products and non-food items increased by 70 per cent.

Ocado said it sold enough mincemeat to make 688,884 mince pies.

Andrew Gwynn, analyst at Exane BNP Paribas said Ocado’s performance put it closer in line with the rest of the market, “removing some of the doubts there were about the level of demand”.

“But it is still not out of the woods and what will be particularly important is to what extent can it grow sales when it opens its second distribution centre in 2013,” he added.

The loss-making group was dogged throughout 2011 by capacity constraints at its distribution centre in Hatfield, which prompted a profit warning in December that year.

It has invested £190m so far in building a second warehouse to supply customers from Dordon in Warwickshire and Steiner said it was on track to open this year.

In November, Ocado raised £36m from existing investors, giving it a year’s more breathing space to benefit from the extra capacity.