Britain's Asda has reported a near double-digit fall in first quarter sales, which it said reflected comparison with exceptionally strong trading in the same quarter last year when the country was in a COVID-19 lockdown.
Asda, based in Leeds, northern England, said first quarter to March 31 like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, fell 9.2% year-on-year, having fallen 2.9% in the fourth quarter of the previous year. Total revenue, excluding fuel, was £4.64 billion (€5.45 billion).
The lockdown in the first quarter last year meant more meals were consumed at home and more clothes and general merchandise were purchased in supermarkets as non-essential shops were closed.
Also sales in the quarter last year benefited from the earlier timing of the Easter holiday.
Asda, which trails market leader Tesco and Sainsbury's in annual sales, has been owned since last year by brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa and private equity company TDR Capital.
Last month Tesco and Sainsbury's both warned of lower profit this year, amid a worsening cost of living crisis.
Monthly industry sales data has shown Asda underperforming its bigger rivals.
Asda said it has invested over £90 million in a new 'Just Essentials' value range and in cutting the prices of 100 key products.
"We are investing in helping our shoppers manage the challenges of the here and now, as well as progressing critical strategic initiatives including loyalty, convenience and enhancing our in-store offering, which will all deliver long-term value," commented Asda co-owner Mohsin Issa.
The group has been without a CEO since Roger Burnley abruptly left the group in August. In November, new chairman Stuart Rose said appointing one was a priority.
On Thursday, Asda said former Tesco executive Ken Towle had joined the business as retail director. The group recently announced the appointment of former Morrisons finance chief Michael Gleeson as its new chief financial officer.