Tesco, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer have all reported a decline in UK like-for-like sales over the key Christmas trading period.
Tesco reported a 2.4% decline in like-for-like sales in the UK for the six weeks to 4 January 2014.
Group sales in the same period declined by 0.6%.
Tesco said further weakness in the grocery market impacted its UK performance but its convenience and online businesses performed well with positive like-for-like sales growth in its Express chain and UK online sales up 14% to £450m.
Chief executive, Philip Clarke, said: “As expected, this Christmas saw a further consumer shift towards multi-channel retailing, and Tesco continues to play a leading role. The increasing focus we have placed in recent years on extending our lead in online grocery and on rolling out our Express format to over 1,600 stores in the UK alone has positioned us well to meet customers’ changing needs.
“Our overseas performance has improved since the third quarter, driven by an improving trend in Europe. This is despite continuing external challenges, including the recent political disruption in Thailand.”
According to Tesco, more customers than ever shopped across more than one channel this Christmas.
Over three million online grocery delivery orders were placed within the six week period, with one third of all orders placed on a mobile device, the supermarket reported.
Tesco said it saw a marked increase in the number of gifts bought online via Tesco Direct, including its Hudl tablet; and over 70% of online general merchandise orders were collected in-store.
Bryan Roberts, Kantar Retail’s insights director, said: “Tesco’s decline in like-for-like sales this Christmas comes on the back of some reasonable comparatives in the previous year, cut-throat competition in a polarised market and signs that Tesco’s recovery initiatives are taking time to impact shopper perceptions.
“Tesco’s unrivalled strength in online and convenience continues to pay dividends, but – as Tesco is aware – it needs to accelerate the overhaul of its larger stores to turn around negative trends in traffic and spend. It has made some impressive progress in private label, but arguably needs to improve promotional clarity, execution and marketing.”
Morrisons has posted a 5.6% fall in like-for-like sales in the six weeks to 5 January 2014.
Chief executive Dalton Philips admitted the supermarket’s performance over Christmas was “disappointing” but it was focused on driving core business and accelerating its penetration of fast-growing convenience and online channels.
Roberts at Kantar Retail said: “After pledging like-for-like sales growth, the 5.6% decline in like-for-like sales for Morrisons is a very unwelcome surprise.
“While there is a degree of credence in Dalton Philips’ frequent defence that the business is under-represented in the online and convenience growth channels, the collapse in sales (against soft comparables last year) indicates that Morrisons’ proposition and marketing failed to resonate with shoppers.
“While the impending launch of online and growth in convenience provide some modest silver lining, the clouds over the main estate indicate that the fundamentals of the Morrisons offer may need to be revisited.”
Marks & Spencer’s UK like-for-like sales fell 0.2% in the 13 weeks to 28 December 2013. While food sales performed well – up 1.6% on a like-for-like basis – same store sales in general merchandise dipped 2.1% in the period.
Roberts at Kantar Retail again: “Yet more of the same from M&S. Food continues to trundle on in an impressive fashion, no doubt benefiting from shoppers trading up over the festive period.
“General merchandise, however, struggles again, suffering from availability issues, hit and miss appeal, erratic and frustrating discounting and some frankly baffling marketing.
“There are some signs of green shoots of recovery in womenswear, but it is worth remembering that impressing London-based fashion journalists is a world away from winning the custom of busy, budget-conscious mums across the rest of the UK.”