I’m pleased to say that it’s been a good start to the year. Total sales for the Group were £14bn, up 0.4%.
In the UK, while overall grocery market growth was subdued, we outperformed in both sales and volume terms. Total UK sales were just over £9bn, including a (0.8)% impact from the closure of Tesco Direct, where we took the strategic decision last year to remove unprofitable sales.
This strong performance is a reflection of the underlying improvements we’ve made to our offer, including the broader roll-out of our Exclusively at Tesco brands. These brands continue to be really popular with customers, with sales up 10% – and customer quality perceptions are twice that of our old Everyday Value ranges.
This week we were voted by customers as Britain’s Favourite Supermarket for the fifth year running at the Grocer Gold Awards, and we picked up the overall Grocer 33 awards for availability and service, for the first time since 2010 and 2011 respectively. We were also recognised for our work on food waste, and Booker’s Premier fascia won Best Symbol Group. It’s great recognition for everything we’ve been doing and a huge credit to colleagues, and all the more impressive because it also comes at a time of significant change in our business.
Booker continues to grow well, with sales up 4.2% excluding tobacco, even as we lap last year’s exceptionally strong growth from one-off contract wins. Booker’s customers are also responding positively to the benefits of Joining Forces, and our ‘Bigger Group Better For All’ initiatives – including improvements to the range and price on key fresh and packaged products.
In Ireland, sales growth improved to 2.7%, driven by a particularly strong performance in some of our core food categories, and the success of our ‘You Won’t Pay More’ campaign on 800 key Own Brand and branded products.
In Central Europe, total sales were down (7.9)% – with a c.(4)% impact from our Polish business, where we have the impact of store closures, as well as two fewer trading days. Across the region, customers are responding well to our Star Lines initiative on 600 products, with sales of these lines outperforming the rest of the business by around 5%.
In Asia, momentum has improved as our business moved back into growth, with sales up 2.6% – an improvement of more than 3% quarter-on-quarter. We are increasing our market share in Thailand, driven by strong growth in the Bangkok area, and we continue to improve our offer for customers in Malaysia.
At Tesco Bank, sales were down (1.9)%, and we continue to focus on how we best serve Tesco customers and align our resources effectively to meet their needs – and this also led to the decision to stop new mortgage lending in the quarter.
Our Big 6 reflects our progress so far, but as always at this early stage in the year it is also impacted by the phasing of some of our plans within the year, where we haven’t yet felt the benefit of some of the improvements we are making for customers:
It’s been a good first quarter performance, and we’re doing the right things for our customers. Our offer is stronger than ever, and as a result our core UK business is outperforming the market.
Thank you for all that you are doing.