Justin King, Chief Executive, said: "We have seen a decline in sales in the quarter reflecting tough comparatives.
This time last year our sales benefited significantly from the discovery of horsemeat in some branded and competitors’ products. We are pleased, however, that market data shows we have maintained market share at 17%1.
-Total sales for fourth quarter down 1.5 per cent (down 1.0 per cent ex fuel)
-Like-for-like sales for fourth quarter down 3.8 per cent (down 3.1 per cent ex fuel)
The market is now growing at its slowest rate since 2005, with falling food inflation in particular benefiting customers. The later timing of Easter and Mother’s Day, which fall in quarter one of our new financial year, and unseasonable weather have also contributed to lower market growth year-on-year.
We continue to see growth in our own-brand ranges, significantly ahead of branded products, with penetration now at 51 per cent, versus 47 per cent for the market2. Our own-brand products are, on average, 20 per cent cheaper than a branded equivalent and are also supported by the values that our customers expect of us.
We recently lowered the price of our milk, bread and eggs, but continue to pay a fair price to farmers through our Dairy Development Group, and only use British flour in our in-store bakeries and eggs from hens that are free to roam. Customers continue to tell us they recognise the uniqueness and value for money of our own-brand ranges.
Our general merchandise and clothing business continues to perform well, with particularly strong growth in menswear of over 23 per cent year-on-year. During the quarter we announced the renewal of our collaboration with the designer Gok Wan for a further 12 collections, and also released our eleventh collection of his ladieswear.