Dutch food retailer Laurus NV is expecting to post a 9.2% drop in yearly sales despite improvements in the fourth quarter.

The company said in a statement: “The combined like-for-like consumer sales of the Laurus banners followed a strongly improving trend in the fourth quarter of 2005.” 

Like-for-like consumer sales increased 0.2% in the fourth quarter, falling just 2.2% compared to fourth quarter 2004. Customer sales had fallen 8.8% in the first half-year and 5% in the second half-year.

Net sales in 2005 were at EUR3,083.2m (US$3,723.43m), compared with EUR3,405.9m in 2004. The company’s full 2005 financial year was 52 weeks long, while the 2004 financial year lasted 53 weeks.

Laurus said the improvement in like-for-like consumer sales was at the expense of margin, which remained under pressure throughout 2005. As a consequence, the operating result for the second half of 2005 is not expected to show improvement on the first half.