Asda may have recorded its 10th consecutive quarter of declining sales today, but new boss Sean Clarke was cautiously optimistic.

The beleaguered big four grocer reported a 2.9% drop in fourth quarter sales, pounded by shopper numbers sliding 1.8% and the average basket size slipping 1.1% during the period.

While this decline is unlikely to have the Walmart-owned supermarket cracking open the bubbly, new boss Sean Clarke was adamant that the retailer was “encouraged by the early signs of our customers responding positively to the hard work that’s been happening in our stores throughout 2016”.

The rate of sales decline in sales has slowed, compared to the 5.8% plummet of last year, but it’s clear Clarke has his work cut out to turn these slowing declines into the green shoots of sales growth.

Outside the world of grocery, Clarks has kicked off a review of its 550-strong UK and Ireland store estate, drafting in property consultant Harper Dennis Hobbs to lead the charge.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor Philip Hammond said he was in “listening mode” about business rate reforms as retail bosses said action was required to improve the system, including Fat Face’s Anthony Thompson and Ann Summers’ Jacqueline Gold.

And shopping centre landlord Hammerson unveiled plans to offload a portion of its property assets to free up capital to invest in new developments.

Quote of the day

“Clarks has clearly been a bit slow to do this review, it would have been useful a couple of years ago. Having 550 stores in the UK and Ireland is just not necessary given the rise of online; there is a need to cull some stores so hopefully it does happen.” 

– Globaldata senior retail analyst Kate Ormrod

Today in numbers


The value of property assets shopping centre landlord Hammerson intends to offload this year


The decline in weekly sales for John Lewis as Valentine’s Day purchases failed to offset declines in the retailer’s home category

Wednesday’s agenda

Hotel Chocolat unveils interim results tomorrow. The specialist retailer will hope for continued sweet success off the back of surging sales and profits in its first year as a public company.