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Tesco upbeat as sales meet expectations

TESCO, Britain&rsquo;s largest retailer, yesterday said it had made a &ldquo;solid start&rdquo; to the year, reporting a 4.3 per cent rise in first quarter like-for-like sales at its UK stores.<br /><br />The giant supermarket chain reported a higher sales lift for the 13 weeks ending 30 May than it did in the previous quarter, but its sales growth is still lags behind peers like J Sainsbury and discount rivals like Aldi, who are attracting bargain hunters. <br /><br />Executive director Lucy Neville-Rolfe said that the group was beginning to see an uplift in its premium organic and finest product lines, compared to last quarter, which was dominated by value lines that hurt the group&rsquo;s margins. <br /><br />Rolfe said: &ldquo;We are now seeing much more of a basket mix, whereas before there was a jump in value products. People are beginning to have the confidence to buy upmarket again.&rdquo;<br /><br />The group also reported &ldquo;modest like-for-like growth&rdquo; in its non-food business, with a particularly good perfomance in electricals, which had been suffering. And it said the response to the relaunch of its club card had been &ldquo;very encouraging&rdquo;.<br /><br />Despite the fact that Tesco&rsquo;s UK sales growth is lagging behind peers, investors were cheered by the group&rsquo;s international performance, with total foreign sales up 20 per cent. <br /><br />Arch rival J Sainsbury is today expected to report a 7.5 per cent increase in like-for-like sales for the 12 weeks to 13 June.