Tesco has announced a seventh consecutive quarter of sales growth, with management “encouraged” by the initial customer response to the group’s attempts to tailor its ranges to suit Express convenience stores and improve availability.
Tesco opened 11 Express outlets and closed or disposed of two in the first half. It also opened seven One Stops, excluding franchised outlets, but closed or disposed of 16 – a net reduction of nine as of August 26, the group announced in its interim results.
Tesco forecast that by the end of the second half it will have opened another 38 Express stores (net) and another 13 One Stops (net, excluding franchises).
Eleven One Stops are earmarked for disposal or closure over the next six months and seven Express outlets.
Tesco had 775 company-owned One Stops as of the end of the half-year period and 1,744 Express units making convenience the biggest part of Tesco’s UK business in terms of store numbers.
No further news was forthcoming on the proposed merger with Booker apart from to reiterate that provisional findings to the Competition and Markets Authority’s in-depth Phase 2 investigation were expected to be made public by the end of this month, ahead of a final report by the end of 2017.
Tesco posted group sales excluding VAT and fuel up 3.3% to £25.2bn, which was the seventh consecutive quarter of growth. Pre-tax profit before exceptionals climbed 62.9% to £575m.
UK like-for-like sales climbed 2.2%, transactions rose 0.4% and volumes, excluding tobacco and fuel climbed 0.3%.
The group reported strong fresh food volume growth in the UK of 1.5% driven by what it said were ongoing improvements to its offer.
It said that volumes within its core fresh food business grew 1.5% helped by continued strong performance of meat and produce where it said it outperformed the market in volume terms by nearly 6% and 3% respectively.
Own-label sales were growing 4.6% year on year and its exclusive fresh food brands featured in 70% of baskets.
Tesco said its stores’ food price inflation for customers was about 1% lower than the rest of the market.
It further simplified its pricing during the period, reducing the number of multi-buy promotions year on year by 10%.
Tesco said its exclusive fresh food brands continued to be popular and it introduced more than 800 new products, including miniature avocados and a fun-shaped kids vegetable range.
Capital expenditure in the current year is expected to be £1.1bn and, going forward, £1.1bn-£1.4bn a year.
Dave Lewis, chief executive, said the group continued to make strong progress with sales and profits up, stronger cash generation and debt levels less than half of what they were three years ago.
“All this is possible because of the focus we have placed on serving shoppers a little better every day. Our offer is more competitive and more customers are shopping at Tesco,” he said.