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Sunday 16th of January 2011
January 13, 2011    

Tesco blames big freeze for poor Christmas sales

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by Kay Murchie

Supermarket giant Tesco today announced like-for-like sales, excluding petrol, grew by just 0.6% in the six week period to 8 January compared with a year earlier.

The figures were worse than expected for the Christmas period and the company blamed the heavy snowfall which gripped most of the country during the build up to the festive period.

The figures come shortly after smaller rivals, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s, reported a rise in Christmas and New Year sales, despite the bad weather.

Sainsbury’s, which is the UK’s third largest supermarket chain, said more than 24 million customers passed through its checkouts during the Christmas week – an all-time high.

It said like-for-like sales, excluding petrol, grew by 3.6% in the 14 weeks to January 8, compared with a year earlier, adding that sales of non-food were particularly strong.

Meanwhile, Morrison’s said like-for-like sales grew 1% in the six-week period over Christmas and New Year compared with the same period a year ago.

However, Tesco said it continued to benefit from strong overseas growth with total international sales up by 14.2% in the six-week period.

Sales were 24.2% higher in Asia, driven by Thailand and China. In the US, meanwhile, total sales surged by 36.9% at its Fresh & Easy convenience stores.

Commenting on the figures, chief executive Sir Terry Leahy said: “Our performance remains solid but was hindered in the run up to the important Christmas trading period in the UK by the disruptive effects of the severe winter weather conditions.”

Tesco is the UK’s largest retailer and currently the world’s third largest retailer, behind France’s Carrefour SA and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

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