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Supermarket figures underline the need for multichannel

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The importance of a multichannel offering that balances stores and the internet has been underlined by the supermarkets’ figures this week.

Sainsbury’s and Tesco both reported strong online growth, but Morrisons, which makes its first ecommerce food deliveries tomorrow, put its sales decline down to its lack of an online offering.

At Tesco, , the UK’s biggest retailer, 14% growth in its commerce business, taking sales to £450m in the five weeks to January 4, wasn’t enough to stem a fall in sales elsewhere in its UK business. Total sales fell by 1.2%, including petrol, in the period, while UK sales, including VAT and petrol declined by 1.5%.

Chief executive Philip Clarke said: “As expected, this Christmas saw a further consumer shift towards multichannel 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.”

However, he said: “”We continued to invest in the most compelling offer for the tens of millions of customers who chose to shop with us this Christmas, but further weakness in the grocery market as a whole continued to impact our performance in the UK.”

Sainsbury’s had its biggest ever grocery sales day in the run up to Christmas. Ecommerce turnover topped £5m on December 22, the high point of a quarter in which its online grocery sales rose by more than 10%. The online boost came as sales in the 14 weeks to January 4 rose by 2.5%, including fuel, compared to the same time last year. Like-for-like sales were flat, according to today’s third quarter trading statement.

Fast growth of 18% also came in the supermarket’s convenience business, which saw its biggest sales day of nearly £7m on Christmas Eve. It also saw its busiest ever trading week in the seven days leading up to Christmas. More than 28m transactions took place in the week, with December 23 the busiest day, when it took nearly £17m.

Multichannel highlights over the period also included a new groceries website and the introduction of an online delivery pass, already bought by more than 10,000 users.

Chief executive Justin King said October and November were difficult months as customers saved up for Christmas. “However, we saw strong sales in the key period over Christmas,” he said.

Meanwhile Morrisons turned in “disappointing” sales, with sales including fuel down by 3.3%, and like-for-like sales down by 7.1%, including fuel. It put the fall down to its “underrepresentation” in both the convenience and online channels, as well as the prevalence of discounting this Christmas.

The company is now looking to its new online operation to help turn the picture around.

Chief executive Dalton Philips said: “In a very tough market our sales performance over Christmas was disappointing.

“However we are firmly focused on driving our core business and accelerating our penetration of the fast growing channels. Our convenience business is building towards an operation of scale and the first food deliveries of will be made tomorrow, reaching half of UK households by the end of the year.”

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