Chilean supermarket chain D&S has said it expects same-store sales growth to improve as the first quarter progresses, due to increased consumer spending and low-price sales promotions.

"In January (same store sales) rose 4.7% (compared with January 2003). In February 9.5%, and in March the trend is pretty positive, similar to February," Cristobal Lira, D&S's chief executive, was quoted by Reuters as saying.  

D&S, which has a market share of around 32% in Chile's supermarket sector, reported same-store sales growth of 3.5% in the fourth quarter of 2003, after negative growth in the first half of the year.

However, the company said sales growth had been boosted by its low price strategy, which is hitting operating margins.

"In 2004 we can expect that the first and second quarters reflect the costs of implementing this strategy. (But) the every day low prices strategy is bearing fruit," Lira said.