Tesco managed to continue growing sales in the 13 weeks to May 29 compared with a year earlier despite the same period in 2020 being during the height of the first lockdown when supermarket shelves were stripped bare.
Sales in its British supermarkets grew 0.5 per cent to 10 billion pounds (13.88 billion dollars) – up 9.3 per cent on the same period two years ago before the pandemic.
Its wholesale Booker business saw the strongest growth, with sales up 9.2 per cent to 1.77 billion poundsas the leisure sector started reopening during the period with lockdown restrictions easing in April and May.
Booker’s catering like-for-like sales jumped 68.1 per cent, although it was offset by a 4.3-per-cent fall in its sales to other retailers – typically independent convenience stores.
In the Republic of Ireland, sales slumped 6.1 per cent to 641 million pounds as the grocer failed to match the strong sales from a year earlier.
The retailer’s central Europe division also failed to keep up with the pace of growth, dropping 1.6 per cent to 940 million pounds, although both it and Tesco’s Irish divisions remain ahead on a two-year basis – up 13 and 1.5 per cent respectively.
Total sales were up 1 per cent to 13.4 billion pounds in the period.
The shift to more households using online grocery services looks set to become permanent, with 1.3 million orders a week being placed.
This means online sales are now up 81.6 per cent on pre-pandemic levels and up 22.2 per cent on the same period last year.
Non-food and clothes sales helped drive some of the growth in the period, with Tesco remaining open throughout the recent lockdowns whilst non-essential retailers were unable to trade until April.
General merchandise, which includes all non-food products, was up 10.3 per cent and clothing up 52.1 per cent in the period compared to a year ago.
At the start of the first lockdown in Wales, politicians faced criticism from retailers over rules banning the sale of non-food products, whilst many shoppers during the first wave opted to order clothes online.
Bosses said they were keen to continue pushing cheaper prices and have maintained their Aldi price match scheme on more than 500 lines.
Heavy focus was also placed on its Clubcard loyalty scheme, making it available at all 1,844 Express stores.
Chief executive Ken Murphy said: “We delivered a strong performance in the first quarter, even as we lapped the high demand of last year due to the pandemic.
“While the market outlook remains uncertain, I’m pleased with the strong start we’ve made to the year.”