US fastfood giant McDonald’s has announced that its total Systemwide sales for March 2003 increased 5% compared to the year-ago period to nearly US$3.7bn (down 1% in constant currencies).

Systemwide sales for the first quarter also increased 5% over the prior year to almost $10.2bn (flat in constant currencies).

Brand McDonald’s sales for March 2003 for restaurants in operation at least 13 months (comparable sales) declined 3.7% in constant currencies, compared with a 0.1% decrease in March 2002. For the quarter, comparable sales declined 3.6% compared with a 0.8% decrease in the prior year.

Chairman and chief executive officer Jim Cantalupo said, “We are strengthening our foundation by focusing on operational and menu improvements that will attract more customers to our restaurants and increase visit frequency among existing customers. I am confident that our current strategies and disciplined approach will build steady top-line growth over the next 12 to 18 months.

“In March, Systemwide customer traffic was somewhat less than originally expected as consumers altered their daily routines in response to world events. US sales for March showed progress against the competition, although results continued to be affected by the sluggish US economy. Europe’s sales were impacted by economic weakness in certain markets and very strong prior year comparisons, driven in part by a change in the timing of school holidays from March in 2002 to April in 2003. We will discuss the factors behind our sales results in greater detail when we release first quarter earnings on April 28.”