Tesco has made its first trading update of 2015, revealing plans to shut 43 “unprofitable” stores, most of which are likely to be convenience outlets.
Despite this, the supermarket giant also saw positive Christmas sales results for the six weeks ended 3 January 2015, with a like-for-like (LFL) volume growth in fresh food for the first time in five years.
Tesco’s convenience and online grocery businesses’ performance over the Christmas period was also strong, resulting in LFL sales growth of 4.9% and 12.9%.
For the entire third quarter, from for 19 weeks ended 3 January 2015, total LFL sales were up 2.9%.
This is encouraging news from the struggling supermarket, which hit the headlines for overstating profits by £263m late last year. However, the retailer acknowledged it still had a long way to go.
In a bid to regain a place in the tough competition, Tesco has also said it will close its Cheshunt head office in 2016 to consolidate locations, and restructure central overheads by simplifying store management structures.
The retailer claimed this restructure would deliver savings of around £250m a year, at a one-off cost of £300m.
Dave Lewis, Tesco chief executive, said: “We are seeing the benefits of listening to our customers. The investments we are making in service, availability and, selectively, in price are already resulting in a better shopping experience. A broad-based improvement has built gradually through the third quarter, leading to a strong Christmas trading performance.
“I would like to thank all of my colleagues in Tesco. The unique combination of retail expertise and real passion for the customer has been an inspiration to be a part of. In difficult circumstances the team has begun the challenging task of reinvigorating our business. There is more to do, but we have taken the first important steps in the right direction.”
The Tesco boss also outlined his concerns about the impact on investors, but said he remained confident that the business was on the road to recovery. He continued: “We have some very difficult changes to make. I am very conscious that the consequences of these changes are significant for all stakeholders in our business, but we are facing the reality of the situation. Our recent performance gives us confidence that, when we pull together and put the customer first, we can deliver the right results.”