Dutch retailer Ahold Delhaize has reported a 1.5% decrease in sales its European operations in the fourth quarter of its financial year (-1.9% at constant exchange rates), with its Albert Heijn banner a 'particular standout' in the quarter, the company said.
If the 53rd week in 2020 is excluded, Q4 net sales rose 3.0% at constant exchange rates, Ahold Delhaize said.
Comparable sales growth was boosted by 'continued market share gains', the group said, with Albert Heijn in particular boosted by 'strong execution, successful marketing campaigns, sales uplifts provided by the brand’s store remodeling activities, and the acquired DEEN stores'.
Online Sales Growth
Online sales also continued to rise, growing by 7.4% in Europe in Q4 on top of a 73.4% increase in the same period the previous year. Its bol.com platform saw net consumer sales grow by 7.8% in the quarter, with sales from third-party sellers growing 9.1%.
Underlying operating margin in Europe was 4.1% in the quarter, compared to a 5.1% margin in the corresponding period the previous year, 'when margins sustained unusual benefits from lockdown conditions in Europe', the retailer said.
At group level, Q4 2021 net sales were up 0.1% at constant exchange rates – if the 53rd week in 2020 is excluded, sales in the quarter were up 6.7%.
"Positive Sales Momentum"
"We ended 2021 on a strong note, with positive group Q4 comparable sales momentum and stable group margins, positioning us for a strong start to the next phase of our Leading Together strategy announced last November," commented Ahold Delhaize chief executive Frans Muller.
For the full year, group net sales of €75.6 billion were up 3.3% on 2020 at constant exchange rates, and up 5.0% on a comparable 52-week basis.
Looking ahead, Ahold Delhaize expects underlying operating margin for the coming year to be at least 4%, and underlying EPS to decline by low- to mid single-digits compared to 2021.
"As we enter 2022, we will accelerate our omnichannel investments to capture the incremental growth opportunities we see over the horizon, enabled by our platform," Muller added.
"Improving omnichannel productivity also remains a very high priority as part of the commitment we announced at our November Investor Day to reach fully allocated profitability in Group e-commerce operations by 2025. It comes as the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to highlight the importance of strong omnichannel food retail operations that offer consumers a variety of shopping options, including robust online offerings.
Ahold Delhaize recently announced a further €1 billion share buyback programme, while the group has also accelerated its sustainability targets.
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