Dutch retail group Laurus has reported a decrease in like-for-like sales across all formats of 3.6% for the first quarter of 2006. However, the company said this showed an improvement from the first quarter of 2005 when like-for-like sales had shown a decline of 8.5%.

"This represents a continuation of the encouraging trend in 2005, when the gap between Laurus sales and market growth was narrowed appreciably," the company said.

Laurus added that when sales were adjusted to take account of the late Easter holiday, the improvement was even stronger, with a decrease of only 2.2% in like-for-like sales being recorded.

The company said the upward trend was strongest at its Super de Boer stores. Before adjustments for the effects of the Easter period, like-for-like sales at Super de Boer stores were down by 1.2%, with independent retailers in the Super de Boer chain performing particularly strongly. Like-for-like sales of Edah and Konmar stores, also adjusted for the late Easter, were down by 3.3%.

The company said the improvement in like-for-like sales at Super de Boer stores was mainly attributable to an increase in the number of individual checkout transactions. For Super de Boer's own stores, which are still trailing the independent retailers in terms of performance, a policy of operational improvements has been introduced together with a restructuring programme involving the disposal of under-performing stores.

In 2006, Super de Boer will be focusing on delivering a further improvement in like-for-like sales and operating margins, the company said, while continuing its ongoing store modernisation programme.