The chief executive of Carrefour today (16 April) insisted that the French retail giant had put in a “resilient” performance during the first quarter of 2009, despite posting a 2.8% fall in sales.

Carrefour, the world’s second-largest retailer, reported first-quarter sales of EUR22.72bn (US$29.9bn). At constant exchange rates, sales were down 1.4%.

Excluding petrol, sales were flat at constant exchange rates. However, Carrefour said that, excluding fuel and stripping out the effect of last year’s extra day in February and an early Easter, sales were up 1.5%.

CEO Lars Olofsson said: “Carrefour recorded a resilient first-quarter sales performance in an environment that remains tough, thanks notably to our strengthened commercial dynamics.”

Olofsson, who joined Carrefour in January, is looking to improve the performance of Carrefour’s domestic operations, particularly its hypermarkets.

Carrefour said it had seen a “tangible” gain in market share in France during the quarter, with “broadly stable” sales excluding fuel.

The retailer has launched a series of promotions in France, moves that meant its hypermarkets put in a “resilient” performance. The retailer is also set to launch low-cost, own-label line on its domestic market this summer.

“In 2009, we will continue be on the side of our customers to win market share,” Olofsson said.

Carrefour admitted its international performance had been “mixed” with the downturn in Spain hitting its hypermarkets in the country and offsetting a “good performance” of its hard discount stores.

In Latin America, Carrefour’s sales rose by 14.4% at constant exchange rates.

In China, Carrefour’s sales slowed, rising 3.1% at constant exchange rates, compared top growth of 6.9% in the fourth quarter of 2008.