Associated British Foods has said that sales at its Primark fashion business over the 16 weeks to January 8 were up 36% versus last year on a constant currency basis, despite the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant hitting customer numbers in December.
It said it was now seeing a recovery in UK and Ireland footfall.
Like-For-Like Sales Improvement
AB Foods said Primark's sales in the 16-week period on a like-for-like basis improved compared to the final quarter of its 2020-2021 financial year, while its operating profit margin was ahead of its expectations.
Primark has about 400 stores in Europe and the United States but does not trade online.
It said all its stores remained open throughout the period, except for short periods in Austria and the Netherlands. Last Christmas its store estate was largely closed due to COVID lockdowns.
Sugar, Grocery And Ingredients
AB Foods also owns major sugar, grocery, ingredients and agricultural businesses.
Revenue in these businesses were in aggregate 6% ahead of last year on a constant currency basis.
Sugar revenue was driven by strong European prices while its ingredients revenue was buoyed by a recovery in volumes from COVID-19 affected levels last year.
The group said all businesses have experienced inflationary pressures in raw materials, commodities, supply chain and energy. That has impacted margins in grocery and ingredients where price rises have lagged the effects of input cost inflation.
AB Foods maintained its guidance for "significant progress", at both the half and full year, in adjusted operating profit and adjusted earnings per share.
'Taking these factors into account, our outlook for the Group is unchanged, with significant progress, at both the half and full year, in adjusted operating profit and adjusted earnings per share for the Group,' it said.