Asda has reported a fall in sales for the first quarter of the year, ending a four-year run of quarterly sales rises.
The UK’s second largest grocery retailer saw same-store sales, excluding fuel and VAT, drop by 0.3 per cent in the three months to March 31, down from a rise of 4.6 per cent in the final quarter of 2009 and the first fall since 2006.
The supermarket chain blamed the “disappointing” Q1 sales performance on a “significant” slowdown in consumer spending.
Asda chairman Andy Bond, who was last week replaced as chief executive by chief operating officer Andy Clarke, said: “The market has slowed down significantly since the turn of the year, and I expect conditions to remain tough for some time.”
He warned that households are tightening their spending in anticipation of tax rises as the new coalition government looks to tackle the record budget deficit, and added that consumers are also counting the cost of high fuel prices .
Asda added that its first-quarter profit grew ahead of sales and beat internal targets, although it did not reveal any figures.
It also announced a £12 million investment in frontline services to cut queue times and assist customers with their packing, and said it is to create 300 new jobs through the opening of a new home shopping centre in north London.