Belfast Telegraph

Bumper Christmas as Asda defies arctic blast

Supermarket chain Asda said shoppers had planned ahead to beat the bad weather, after busier-than-usual trading in the two weeks before Christmas.

The firm's store in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, has also been revealed as one of the best performing in the UK over the festive period.

After the snow left shoppers without last-minute essentials in 2009, Asda said many customers opted to split their big shop over two trips this year.

Last Thursday - December 23 - was still the chain's busiest festive day with a record 4m customers in its 384 UK supermarkets. However, the fortnight leading up to Christmas saw 11 stores record sales of more than £7m, compared with the nine that passed the figure in 2009.

The company's stores at Boldon, Tyne -amp; Wear and Havant, Hampshire both took over £8m in the two weeks, while other leading stores included Queensferry in Edinburgh and Enniskillen.

While Asda has not disclosed trading figures for the period, it described the run-up to Christmas as good and said it was "pleased with the continuing momentum".

In November, Asda reported a return to sales growth for the third quarter of its financial year as it benefited from initiatives such as price-matching and the revamp of the supermarket's upmarket Extra Special range.

Asda chief executive Andy Clarke said the chain increased efforts to make sure deliveries got through and that stores remained open during the snow.

He added: "The combination of bad weather and people working hard to budget this year has meant the Christmas shop has been spread across a longer period of time, with shoppers making a couple of trips to stock up for the festive season."

Asda said it wheeled out snow ploughs more than 1,600 times and used almost 4.5m tonnes of salt to keep paths clear of ice.

In October Asda marked its fifth anniversary in Northern Ireland by unveiling a £100m investment including 3,000 new jobs over the next five years.

Mr Clarke also urged Northern Ireland's agri-food sector to "innovate" in order to boost the £230m already invested by the firm.