Belfast Telegraph

Good tidings expected as Tesco reveals Christmas sales figures

Supermarket giant Tesco is expected to emerge as the latest festive winner in the sector when it posts figures on Thursday.

The chain is set to j oin smaller rivals Morrisons and Sainsbury's in revealing a resurgent performance amid signs of a better-than-expected Christmas for the Big Four players.

But its update comes less than a week after Tesco said 1,000 people would be made redundant as part of an overhaul of its UK distribution network.

It announced it was reducing the number of distribution centres from 25 to 23, although the company is also expected to create 500 new roles as part of the shake-up.

Experts at Shore Capital believe the chain kept its recent sales recovery on track over the crucial Christmas season.

Clive Black, at Shore Capital, predicts the group will have notched up its fourth quarter in a row of rising sales, with like-for-like growth of 1.25% to 1.75% in the three months to the end of November.

He said Thursday's update may show slightly slower growth in the key six-week Christmas period - at 1.4% - after the group axed its Clubcard Boost promotion.

This compares with a 0.1% rise in like-for-like sales at Sainsbury's over its Christmas quarter and a 2.9% surge at Morrisons for the nine weeks to January 1.

Industry sales figures have already set the scene for an impressive Christmas for the sector thanks to a "remarkable" end-of-year spending spree, according to experts at Nielsen.

Data also out from Kantar Worldpanel showed the best UK grocery sales growth for more than two years, with Tesco largely holding on to its market share, at 28.3% in the 12 weeks to January 1, from 28.3% a year earlier.

The chains have been helped by a significant easing in food price deflation, with Kantar estimating prices rose by 0.2% over the 12 weeks - the first inflation for more than two years.

It comes as a welcome shift for the big chains after waging a fierce price war against discounters Aldi and Lidl.

But the City will be alert to any detail in Thursday's update on the overall financial impact of October's cyber attack on Tesco Bank, when hackers stole £2.5 million from the current accounts of 9,000 customers.

Its update comes on a busy day for retail Christmas updates, with Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and John Lewis among a number of retail giants also due to reveal figures.

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