Ocado ‘encouraged’ as first-quarter sales rise 18%

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Online grocer Ocado today reported an 18 per cent jump in first-quarter sales, putting the firm on track to make its first annual pre-tax profit this year.

The firm said retail sales grew to £218.8 million in the 12 weeks to 23 February, up from £185.5m a year earlier. The average number of weekly orders also grew 18 per cent, but the average order size dipped slightly to £117.53.

Shares in Ocado have risen more than four-fold over the last 12 months, mainly on the back of a £200m deal to provide its online know-how to Morrisons, the UK’s fourth-largest supermarket.

Chief executive Tim Steiner: “While we are encouraged by our current trading, the retail environment remains both challenging and competitive, and we expect to continue growing in line with, or slightly ahead of, the market.”

Ocado last month unveiled wider losses for 2013 but said it was well positioned for the current year, when analysts expect it to make a pre-tax profit for the first time.