ICA Gruppen has posted a 5.9% increase in consolidated net sales in full year 2020, with its ICA Sweden operation leading the way, boosted by a surge in e-commerce.
ICA Sweden posted sales of SEK 91.7 billon (€9.09 billion) for the year, up from SEK 85.2 billion in 2019, driven by 'sharp growth' in online, the group said.
In the fourth quarter of the year, e-commerce accounted for 45% of sales growth, the group said, and more than 30% for the entire year.
ICA is also doubling down on its online endeavours – by year-end, the group will have migrated to Ocado's e-commerce platform, while a new dark store in Gothenburg will be commenting operations shortly, it said. A further, automated dark store will open in Stockholm in 2022.
Commenting on its Sweden performance, Per Strömberg said that while the business performed 'slightly weaker' than the market both in the fourth quarter and over the full year, online has provided a boost.
"We are clearly growing faster than the market online, but the exceptionally high online growth also means that total growth is relatively lower, all else equal," he said. "Overall we believe that the pandemic will continue to impact performance for the grocery retail market – at least during the first half of 2021."
In the Baltic countries, the company's Rimi Baltic operation also saw an increase in sales, albeit at a low level – sales rose to SEK 16.4 billion, from SEK 16.2 billion the previous year.
ICA said that new restrictions introduced at the end of the year impacted its Rimi Baltic performance, however its Lithuania business saw a 'continued favourable performance' in the fourth quarter. Also, in Latvia, the group recently opened a new warehouse in Riga.
"A few finishing touches remain, but for the most part we are up and running, which creates good conditions going forward to be even more efficient in our logistics in the Baltics," said Strömberg.
Sales were also up at ICA's Apotek Hjärtat business, to SEK 15.2 billion (2019: SEK 14.8 billion), helped again by a 'sharp rise' in online sales.
"Our e-commerce continues to grow faster than the market, but overall we are growing a bit more slowly than the market given that our market share is lower online," Strömberg said of the Apotek Hjärtat performance. "However, the e-commerce contribution is steadily improving, and continuing that trend is an important part of the puzzle for restoring profitability over the long term."
Following what it described as a 'special year', ICA is looking forward to the coming 12 months with "strong self-confidence", Strömberg said, with the group ramping up its focus on digitalisation, implementation of e-commerce projects, efforts to strengthen its business competences and undertaking new initiatives in health and sustainability.
"With a clear strategy and high level of energy we stand well-prepared to take on 2021," he added.
© 2021 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.