'Satisfactory' Q1 for Big Food Group

Related tags Big food group Iceland

A slow but steady recovery at Iceland and innovative new customer
schemes at Booker will help the Big Food Group improve over time,
but for the first quarter of the year, the company managed little
more than a 'satisfactory' performance.

The Big Food Group​, which owns the Iceland and Booker food retail and wholesale chains, has reported 'satisfactory' results for the first quarter of 2003 as it continues its recovery strategy.

In a trading statement, the company said that it was particularly pleased with the continued good performance at Iceland, where sales have been rising steadily since November 2002 as a result of the rollout of a new store format.

While the refits have been shown to have a positive effect on like-for-like sales over the longer term - the average rise in sales per outlet over the first year is around 13 per cent - it is still too early for most of the new stores to contribute.

As a result, first quarter like-for-like sales at Iceland were broadly flat, dropping 0.2 per cent. After adjusting for the later Easter this year, the rate of decline was 1.6 per cent against a comparable figure of -2.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2002/03.

A total of 23 stores were refurbished during the quarter, bringing the total number of new concept stores to 62. Allowing for holiday periods, the refit rate is three stores per week.

At Booker, non-tobacco sales grew 1.6 per cent in the quarter, or by 1.2 per cent adjusted for the Easter period. But a 4.5 per cent drop in tobacco sales during the quarter meant that overall like-for-like sales at Booker were down 1.2 per cent.

But again Big Food's management is pleased with the overall Booker performance, with new schemes such as Premier - which offers customers additional merchandising support, promotional packages and performance analysis - and Spend and Save - which rewards higher volume customer tobacco purchases with retrospective discounts - both proving popular and likely to lead to higher sales in the future.

"Trading in the first quarter has improved on the more positive trends we achieved in the second half of last year,"​ said Bill Grimsey, chief executive. "The strategic initiatives we are now rolling out across the group in line with our recovery strategy will have a progressive impact and re-enforce this progress."

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