Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
It’s a busy day for retail news, as a flurry UK firms reveal how well – or badly – they fared over the crucial Christmas period.
And the first up is Tesco, which has racked up record sales as Covid-19 lockdowns drove sales across the supermarket sector.
Britain’s biggest retailer has reported that UK like-for-like sales jumped by 8.1% over the festive period (the 6 weeks to 9 January 2021).
Online sales growth was especially strong, up 80% over the last nineteen weeks – which which equates to nearly £1 billion extra sales over that period (the third quarter of the financial year + Christmas)
Tesco says there was “unprecedented demand for online groceries”; it handled over seven million orders containing more than 400 million individual items over the Christmas period.
This follows similar strong trading results in recent days from rivals such as Sainsbury, Lidl and Morrisons, as the closure of pubs and restaurants during lockdowns led to everyone eating and drinking at home more.
Tesco also reports that large store sales also grew strongly as customers favoured larger, less frequent shopping trips (presumably to keep stocked up during the pandemic).
Ken Murphy, Tesco’s chief executive. says:
We delivered a record Christmas across all of our formats and channels. In response to unprecedented demand for online groceries, colleagues delivered over seven million orders containing more than 400 million individual items over the Christmas period.
We’re now supporting 786,000 vulnerable customers with priority access to online slots and, as lockdown measures continue, we’ll keep doing everything we can to ensure everyone can safely get the food and essentials they need.
But, Tesco has also raised its estimate for the cost of the pandemic to £810m, up from £725m back in October. It says that incremental costs, such as increased staff absences, are rising due to the “increasing severity of the pandemic”.
We’re also hearing from Primark-owner ABF, online fashion retailer BooHoo, car and cycling retailer Halfords, home furnishings group Dunelm, and musical instrument maker Gear4Music, so stay tuned…
European stock markets, meanwhile, are expected to open a little higher as investors prepare for Joe Biden to unveil his long-awaited multi-trillion dollar stimulus plan.
- 9am GMT: Preliminary estimate for German GDP in 2020
- 12.30pm GMT: European Central Bank releases account of last month’s Governing Council meeting
- 1.30pm GMT: US weekly jobless figures