Tesco sees Irish sales continue to rise, but UK growth slows ahead of Brexit

Tesco grew sales in Ireland by nearly 3% in the last three months, but growth in its core UK market slowed.

In a trading update, the British supermarket giant said it grew overall group sales by 0.4% to just under £14bn (€16bn) in the three months to the end of May - the first quarter of its financial year.

In Ireland, Tesco said it saw a 2.7% rise in sales to £567m, with like-for-like sales ahead by 1.3%. It attributed the rise in Irish sales to its 'You Won't Pay More' campaign in addition to targeted coupon activity.

In April, Tesco reported a 5% rise in annual revenues for its Irish operations to just under €2.7bn; saying it had continued to make "good progress in a competitive market".

In its first quarter Tesco also saw 2.6% sales growth in Asia, but a near 8% decline in central Europe and a 0.4% dip in UK sales. On a like-for-like basis, UK sales were up by 0.4%.

Nevertheless, group chief executive Dave Lewis put a brave face on the update, saying: "We have had a strong start to the year, growing ahead of the UK market on both a volume and value basis. Our customer offer is more competitive than ever."

The Tesco boss said he had unfinished business after the latest figures showed a slowdown in a subdued grocery market in the UK, which is under a cloud from poor early summer weather.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary, Tesco is deep into a recovery plan under Mr Lewis after a 2014 accounting scandal capped a dramatic downturn in its fortunes.

The plan’s success has prompted speculation that the former Unilever executive may look to move on after five years as CEO. But he said there was more work to do at Tesco.

“I’m aware of all the chatter. I’m focused on Tesco, very happy with the team, the business. We haven’t finished what we started,” he said.

Mr Lewis said there had been some weakening in consumer sentiment in the UK, partly driven by the political backdrop.

In Tesco’s second quarter, the year-on-year comparison will not get any easier, given last summer’s heatwave and the soccer World Cup which boosted demand.

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