Britain’s No. 2 supermarket group reported a slight beat to forecasts for sales growth in its key Christmas quarter.
In line with other retailers, grocery sales significantly outperformed clothing and general merchandise, rising 2.3% in the 15 weeks to 6th January – the supermarket’s third quarter – compared to a 0.3% rise in the same quarter the last financial year.
The firm, which bought Argos in 2016, said on Wednesday total retail like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, rose 1.1%, while total retail sales grew 1.2%, down from 1.6% a year ago.
That compared to analysts’ average forecast of 0.9% and growth of 0.6% in the previous quarter.
It said underlying profit before tax for the full 2017-18 year was now expected to be moderately ahead of the published analysts’ consensus – an underlying pretax profit of £559m, down from £581m in 2016-17.
Mike Coupe, chief executive, commented: “We had a strong Christmas week, with record sales, over 340,000 online grocery orders and stellar growth in Argos Fast Track delivery and collection. Online accounted for 20% of the group’s sales during the quarter.”
He continued: “General Merchandise and Clothing grew market share in a challenging market. Argos stores in Sainsbury’s supermarkets performed particularly well, and Argos saw record sales across the Black Friday period.”