Sains­bury’s cau­tious de­spite web sales boom

New chief says gro­cer has changed fun­da­men­tally dur­ing the pan­demic as on­line rev­enues dou­ble

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - Laura Onita By

SHOP­PERS flocked to the Sains­bury’s web­site dur­ing lock­down in a bid to avoid the high street.

On­line sales more than dou­bled dur­ing the cri­sis as the su­per­mar­ket in­creased its de­liv­ery slots from 370,000 to 650,000 a week and beefed up its click-and-col­lect ser­vice. Th­ese now ac­count for 17pc of Sains­bury’s food busi­ness – up from 7pc last year.

Si­mon Roberts, who was pro­moted to chief ex­ec­u­tive in Jan­uary and took over from Mike Coupe last month, said the su­per­mar­ket chain has changed fun­da­men­tally dur­ing the pan­demic.

Speak­ing to jour­nal­ists for the first time, he said: “It cer­tainly has been a dif­fer­ent four weeks than what I was ex­pect­ing when I was ap­pointed in

Jan­uary.” Like-for-like sales, which strip out the im­pact of new stores, rose 8.2pc dur­ing the 16 weeks to June 27, with the warm weather also help­ing.

How­ever, Mr Roberts said sales are un­likely to stay as strong as re­stric­tions on free­dom are grad­u­ally lifted and pubs and restau­rants come back to life.

Echo­ing its larger ri­val Tesco last week, Sains­bury’s said it has been win­ning shop­pers from Ger­man dis­coun­ters Aldi and Lidl.

It has slashed prices on about 200 items such as ba­nanas, milk and bread dur­ing the pan­demic in a fight to win more cus­tomers.

Mr Roberts said: “We will con­tinue to in­vest to make sure we re­main com­pet­i­tive.” The firm’s scan-and-go

SmartShop app and 60-minute gro­cery de­liv­ery ser­vice Chop Chop have also gained mo­men­tum, sug­gest­ing cus­tomers are us­ing new ways to shop.

Sains­bury’s also owns Ar­gos. De­spite hav­ing to close its 573 stand­alone stores, to­tal sales at the chain rose 10.7pc due to a jump in on­line or­ders.

Mean­while, shop­pers bought fewer clothes dur­ing the pe­riod with sales fall­ing by more than a quar­ter.

Sains­bury’s over­all sales were over­shad­owed by a warn­ing that pan­demi­cre­lated costs may be slightly more than the £500m fore­cast. The firm hired 25,000 ex­tra staff to cope with a wave of panic buy­ing and also had to shut some of its small Lo­cal stores in city cen­tres where foot­fall dried up. This is likely to be off­set by busi­ness rates re­lief, with prof­its ex­pected to be flat for the year to March 2021.

Sep­a­rately, bar­gain chain B&M said quar­terly like-for-like sales were 26.9pc higher than last year. How­ever, chief ex­ec­u­tive Si­mon Arora warned there was still a great deal of uncer­tainty ahead.

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