Sales slipped at Asda in the final three months of last year after customers cut back on spending in the run-up to Christmas.
The supermarket chain’s clothing line, George, was hit particularly hard. Its food business proved more resilient, with sales of its Extra Special range growing 5% year-on-year. However, this was not enough to stop a 1.3% fall in total sales, excluding petrol.
The update was included in a statement released by Asda’s parent company, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. It confirms that all the big supermarket chains had a tough Christmas, which is their most important trading period.
Morrisons reported a 1.7% dip in sales, Sainsbury was down 0.7% and Tesco shed 0.2%. Like the rest of the big four supermarkets, Asda is under pressure from the rise of Aldi and Lidl.
Asda blamed challenging market conditions for the decline. “While customers were enthusiastic for Christmas, they were more mindful in their spending,” said Roger Burnley, the chief executive.
“Many chose to pare back gift lists and focus presents on kids rather than adults and extended family.” He said consumers remained “highly budget conscious”.
Online sales were a bright note, rising more than 10% on 2018 levels in the fourth quarter. The chain extended same-day delivery to 284 stores in the three-month period.
The company also trialled a one-hour click-and-collect service in two shops, and the service is to be rolled out across the entire network from this week.
Asda said its core food business showed more stability across the period, known as the “golden quarter” because it includes Black Friday and Christmas.
The grocer has started trials with new concession partners including Sushi Daily and Claire’s Accessories.