Grocers gear up to reveal festive figures

BRITAIN’S biggest publicly-quoted supermarket groups will reveal the winners and losers in the festive food ­retailing battle this week, with Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons all reporting.

In addition, Marks & Spencer, which has a sizeable food retailing business alongside its clothing and homewares, will be putting out Christmas trading numbers.

Waitrose, owned by John Lewis Partnership, set the bar high last week when posting same-floorspace sales up 5.4 per cent over the festive period. None of its bigger rivals are expected to match that.

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Analysts believe Morrisons and M&S may have had the toughest trading, with some forecasting a 2.8 per cent sales fall at the former.

However, it is thought that Tesco, the UK’s number one food retailer, could post stronger sales growth than rival Sainsbury’s for the first time in three years.

Morrisons reports today, Sainsbury’s on Wednesday, and Tesco and M&S on Thursday. The consensus among City analysts is that Tesco’s sales growth will come in at about 1 per cent, ahead of 0.9 per cent at Sainsbury’s – down from 1.7 per cent growth in the six months to 29 September.

M&S is expected to have partly suffered from a tough comparative sales period for food in the 2011 festive season and rising competition from the similarly upmarket food offering of Waitrose.

M&S chief executive Marc Bolland has responded partly by drafting in former Debenhams and Jaeger boss Belinda Earl to hopefully revitalise M&S’s womenswear offering.

An advertising blitz is set to have helped Domino’s Pizza in its key fourth quarter after a recent slowdown in sales growth.

Domino’s, which updates on full-year trading tomorrow, worried the market when third-quarter figures showed sales growth slipping compared with the first half – but the fourth quarter accounts for about one-third of the group’s sales. It has also launched new products, including twisted dough balls.

Most analysts forecast Domino’s pre-tax profits to rise to about £46 million over the full year, up from £43.6m.

Department store group Debenhams, whose shares have doubled in value in the past year, is expected to show a 1.5 per cent rise in like-for-like sales when it puts out an update tomorrow.