Asda boss bullish despite sales stumbling

Andy Clarke said slide in sales reflected a challenging year. Picture: Richard Walker/ImageNorth/''www.imagenorth.net
Andy Clarke said slide in sales reflected a challenging year. Picture: Richard Walker/ImageNorth/''www.imagenorth.net
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ASDA has recorded its worst decline in quarterly sales for many years, but bosses are sticking with the chain’s medium-term strategy.

The 3.9 per cent slide for the 15 weeks to 19 April follows a 2.6 per cent fall at the end of 2014 and comes amid a fierce supermarket price war as Britain’s biggest grocers see their market shares eaten away by hard discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Andy Clarke, president and chief executive of the US-owned group, described 2015 as the “most challenging year yet” for UK supermarkets but stressed that Asda’s business remained balanced and sustainable.

Clarke said the scale of the fall had previously been seen “in the early days of Asda” but pointed to the wider context of the struggling market.

“It is clear that the big grocers are losing market share and that the discounters are continuing to grow.

“As expected, the market remains turbulent. Customers are preferring to save rather than spend. Asda remains financially strong.”

The chain, owned by US giant Walmart, accuses rivals of short-term gimmicks to boost sales but says it will not engage in such moves and that its five-year plan – now in year two – is working.

But Clarke added: “It would be not transparent of me to say that 3.9 per cent is a good performance.”

Clarke and chief financial officer Alex Russo highlighted strong sales and profit momentum at the George Home brand.