The UK’s Big Food Group, which operates frozen food retailer Iceland, has said all parts of the group produced positive like-for-like sales growth for the year to 2 April.
Group like-for-like sales rose 1.4% for the fourth quarter and 1.5% for the full year. However, like-for-like sales at Iceland slid 0.2% for the fourth quarter and only managed growth of 0.7% for the full year.
Big Food Group said sales at Iceland stores awaiting renewal had softened during the final quarter, reflecting the effects of increased competition as well as the temporary disruption caused by store-improvement changes.
“In contrast, the positive sales impact of the refit programme continues to underpin the transition towards convenience retailing. 23 refits were completed during the quarter and at the end of the financial year 142 stores were trading in the new format,” the group said, adding that it now plans to accelerate the refit programme from three refits per week to six per week.
The group has been vocal in its opposition to Tesco’s acquisition of convenience store chain Adminstore and reiterated its belief that the food retail market should be viewed as a single entity. Bill Grimsey, the group’s CEO, has previously said that the decision by the Office of Fair Trading to allow the deal to go ahead was based on a “misguided assumption” that the grocery retail market is divided into two sections – convenience stores and supermarkets.
Although it has a 27% share of the UK grocery retail market, Tesco was allowed to buy Adminstore without a competition inquiry because its share of the convenience store market is only 6%.
Big Food Group said it plans to continue with its strategy of establishing a strong position in the growing convenience store segment of the retail market. It also plans to persevere with its attempts to buy franchise convenience retailer Londis.
“The company continues to believe that its strategic expansion into convenience store retailing would be greatly enhanced by the opportunity which Londis represents…The company awaits further developments from the process initiated by the Londis Board,” Big Food Group said.