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12 January 2018, 12:22 | Austin Hogan
Sales were up at the supermarket chain over Christmas but the markets had expected stronger growth Adrian Dennis AFP Getty Images
Tesco shares fell around 4 per cent today morning despite the supermarket announcing record sales over Christmas period.
The group, which re-set its strategy in November two months after Archie Norman joined as chairman, said clothing and homeware like-for-like sales fell 2.8 percent in the 13 weeks to December 30, its fiscal third quarter.
"Rowe's five-year plan is no more than a profit stabilisation strategy and (we) see better value elsewhere", Investec's Kate Calvert, who has a "sell" rating on M&S, said.
Like-for-like sales for the United Kingdom and Ireland - which compare performance across the same stores - grew 1.9 per cent in the crucial six-week festive period to 6 January, driven by a rise of 3.4 per cent in food sales. Their signature luxury products are being undercut by bargain supermarkets at a fraction of the price.
It added that trading since December 23 has been mixed following "disappointing" sales in the week after Christmas, although it has halted sales declines in store and online since New Year's Day.
Tesco has reported record sales in the lead up to Christmas, with strong trading in fresh food helping it outperform the total market. While retail inflation remains a market-wide issue, Tesco's fresh categories significantly outperformed the market, with meat and poultry volume sales particularly strong.
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"I would describe the consumer as quite fragile and quite volatile and if there's a reason not to spend they take it", M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe told reporters.
The festive sales fall comes after it gave hope last November that its turnaround was gaining traction in the embattled clothing and home division, when second-quarter sales dipped by just 0.1%.
"We are confident in the outlook for the full year and are firmly on track to deliver our medium-term ambitions".
M&S said a pick up in trading over the key Christmas weeks helped make up for a weak clothing market and more hard trading in its food business, with consumer spending under pressure amid a squeeze on budgets from inflation.
Like-for-like growth in sales is an indicator for retailers' current trading performance and caused M&S shares to drop 5.6 percent.
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