Tesco’s Christmas sales fall in ‘challenging’ market

Two people walk past a Tesco storeImage copyright Getty Images

Sales at the UK’s biggest supermarket, Tesco, fell slightly in the months around the all-important Christmas period.

Like-for-like sales in the UK fell by 0.2% in the 19 weeks to 4 January.

It was the final Christmas under the leadership of Tesco’s boss Dave Lewis, who described the UK market as “subdued”.

But things were less gloomy at High Street rival Marks & Spencer, where sales grew 0.2%.

M&S said its food departments had a “standout” run in the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

In the 13 weeks before the final week of December, food sales increased 1.4%.

Nevertheless, M&S boss Steve Rowe also described the market as “challenging”.

Image copyright Getty Images

On that, he and Mr Lewis agree. Tesco said: “The UK environment has clearly been challenging.”

But the supermarket said it outperformed the market and had its “biggest ever day of UK food sales” in the run-up to Christmas.

On Monday, market research firm Kantar said supermarket sales growth over Christmas was the slowest in five years.

Richard Lim, the boss of analyst firm Retail Economics, said M&S could be showing signs of recovery after what was a tough year for the business, which dropped out of the FTSE 100 in September.

“Food performed particularly well, benefiting from stronger underlying household finances, but consumers also responded positively to more competitive pricing,” he said.

“It appeared that shoppers were prepared to indulge that little bit more this Christmas on food if they spotted value for money.”

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