Tesco has reported UK like-for-like sales excluding petrol and VAT down 0.1% in its first quarter to May 28, reflecting the subdued market.
UK like-for-like sales including VAT and excluding petrol for the period were up 1%. Total sales including petrol and VAT were up by 7%.
Chief executive Philip Clarke said food had performed well in the UK. “We’re continuing to see good growth in fresh prepared foods and meat, fish and poultry. Tesco brand products are also seeing good growth, with the Finest range up by almost 10% like-for-like, as customers seek out quality alternatives to eating out,” he said.
Clarke said in non-food, “whilst the background continues to be unhelpful, we are starting to see the benefits of changes we have made, with overall growth – whilst still negative – strengthening compared to the last quarter”. He added: “We expect to see more visible improvement later in the year as ranges and stores reflect these and further planned changes.”
Sales for the group increased by 7.8% including petrol.
Sales in Asia were up 8.6%, and like-for-like sales up 3.2%. Thailand performed well, Tesco said, while growth in Korea was more subdued. Like-for-like sales in Japan were down 6.4%.
In Europe, sales excluding petrol were up 9.5%. Tesco said growth in particular was strong in Czech Republic and Slovakia. Europe like-for-like sales were up 2%, a slower rate of growth than in the fourth quarter, reflecting a weaker trend in Ireland.
At its Fresh & Easy business in the US, sales were up 21.9%, with like-for-likes up 11.1%. Tesco said its northern California stores have started strongly, with weekly sales per store of $150,000 in the first quarter.
Tesco said the group is performing in line with market expectations and the outlook for the year remains unchanged.
Clarke said: “Tesco has made a good start to the new financial year, despite consumer sentiment in many of our key markets remaining subdued. The overall performance of our businesses in Asia and Europe has again been pleasing, led by further strong growth in Thailand and across our Central European region.
“Uncertainties remain but with early, encouraging signs of better performance emerging in both the UK and the US, I am confident that this start will provide the platform for another year of growth and rising return on capital employed for Tesco.
“We’re also making progress with our strategy: improving the shopping trip for customers; increasing productivity; winning market share - whilst at the same time investing for long term growth in important new products, new space and in our online capability.”