Tesco has reported like-for-like sales in the UK fell by 2.4% over Christmas, maintaining that weakness in the grocery market impacted its performance.

In the six weeks to January 4, total sales in the UK including VAT and excluding petrol fell by 0.6%.  

Group sales fell by 0.6% excluding petrol.

Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke said: “We continued to invest in the most compelling offer for the tens of millions of customers who chose to shop with us this Christmas, but further weakness in the grocery market as a whole continued to impact our performance in the UK.

“Our ongoing work to Build a Better Tesco in the UK is also driving continued improvements for customers, although the effects are being masked in the short term by the strategic changes we have made to improve the long-term sustainability of our business – the transformation of our general merchandise business and the significant reduction in our new store opening programme.”

Clarke added: “As expected, this Christmas saw a further consumer shift towards multichannel retailing, and Tesco continues to play a leading role. The increasing focus we have placed in recent years on extending our lead in online grocery and on rolling out our Express format to over 1,600 stores in the UK alone has positioned us well to meet customers’ changing needs.”

Tesco reported UK online sales of £450m in the six weeks, up 14%. It took more than 3 million online grocery orders, up 11%, and 1.5 million online general merchandise orders, up 25%.

Tesco’s total international sales fell by 0.7% at constant exchange rates, excluding petrol, an improvement from the third quarter.

In Asia, total sales declined by 0.6% at constant exchange rates, with a slightly weaker like-for-like sales performance than the third quarter.

Total sales in Europe slipped 0.8% at constant exchange rates, with a better performance like-for-like than the third quarter.

Clarke said: “Our overseas performance has improved since the third quarter, driven by an improving trend in Europe. This is despite continuing external challenges, including the recent political disruption in Thailand.”