Tesco Enjoys A Merry Christmas With Sales Growth Up 1.8%, New UK Managing Director Appointed

Supermarket giant Tesco has outperformed its rivals with a 1.8% like-for-like sales growth for the Christmas trading period.

The positive figures will be seen as a boon for the supermarket chain, which reported in October a 12% fall in pre-tax group profits in the six months to 25 August - Tesco's first profits fall for 20 years.

UK sales had been on the rise towards the end of the three months leading up to Christmas, but cynics had been concerned about the management upheaval at Tesco - the chairman retired last year and five out of eight executive board members have left within 18 months - and the structural decline of the sector as a whole.

Chris Bush was announced on Thursday as the new UK Managing Director. Bush, who has over 30 years of experience at Tesco, will take responsibility for the UK business, supported by the strong UK Leadership Team.

Speaking about Thursday's results in a trading statement, Tesco's chief executive Philip Clarke said the performance was driven by further improvement in its food business in-store and a strong contribution from online.

"We are just nine months into the implementation of our six-part plan, which is about Building a Better Tesco in the UK for the long term," he said.

"While our seasonal performance is encouraging, there is a lot more to do and the team is focused on delivering further improvements for customers in 2013."

The statement also praised the success of its own-brand food ranges, including Tesco's Finest, and said more was to be done on refocusing the general merchandise business on sustainable, profitable categories.

Nick Hood, business analyst at Company Watch, told the Huffington Post UK: "Tesco was one of the best performers among the food retailers over Christmas in what has been a generally tough festive season for the supermarkets groups, but the growth needs to be judged against some pretty poor trading in 2011.

"Food did well, but they have found general merchandise a bigger challenge. Online grew strongly, boosted by increasing customer use of the Click & Collect facility, but some real questions are being asked about the impact of online on profit margins right across the food sector. We'll know more when Tesco’s full results are out in a few weeks."