Tesco sales fall

City A.M. Reporter
Tesco, the world's third-biggest retailer, has seen a drop in quarterly underlying sales in its main British market, showing its recovery plan following a shock profit warning in January is taking time to gain traction.

The supermarket group, with over 6,000 stores in 14 countries, said consumer confidence was subdued across all of its markets, with total sales up 2.2 per cent including petrol in the 13 weeks to 26 May, its fiscal first quarter.

Once one of the most consistent British companies in terms of earnings growth, Tesco stunned investors in January with its first profit warning in over 20 years, saying it needed to invest heavily to stem a steady decline in UK market share.

Many European retailers have been struggling as shoppers' disposable incomes are squeezed by higher prices, muted wages growth and government austerity measures.

Tesco, which accounts for about one in every £10 spent in British shops and makes over 70 per cent of its trading profit there, has suffered more than rivals like Sainsbury and Asda in part because it sells more discretionary goods like homewares, where shoppers have been cutting back most on spending.

The group said first-quarter sales at British stores open over a year, excluding fuel and VAT sales tax, fell 1.5 per cent, in line with analysts' expectations.

That was marginally better than a 1.6 per cent decline in the fourth quarter of its previous financial year, despite a tough comparative period when sales were boosted by a royal wedding.

"Our performance in the UK has been steady during a challenging quarter for the industry as a whole," said the firm.