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LONDON May 18 Asda, the British supermarket arm
of U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart, slowed the rate of sales
decline in the first quarter, it said on Thursday, as its new
management team started to make its mark on the business.
The UK's third-largest supermarket chain behind market
leader Tesco and Sainsbury's said that sales
at stores open more than a year fell by 2.8 percent, excluding
fuel, in the three months to March 31, compared with a 2.9
percent decline in the previous quarter.
“We’re pleased that the momentum of Q4 has continued into
the new year with a third consecutive quarter of improvement,"
said Chief Executive Sean Clarke.
“Despite this progress we are in no way complacent and there
is still much for us to do."
Monthly industry data has also indicated an improved
performance from Asda in April.
Wal-Mart veteran Clarke, who joined Asda last July, and
former Sainsbury's executive Roger Burnley, who started as chief
operations officer three months later, have focused their
turnaround efforts on the retail basics.
They have made Asda more competitive, sharpening pricing
while improving the quality and availability of product ranges
and stepping up efforts to offer better customer
“We’re delivering more consistently for our customers,
particularly in fresh food, service and availability -- both in
stores and online," Clarke said.
Of Britain's big four supermarket players, which also
includes Morrisons, Asda was hurt the most by the rise
of German discounters Aldi and Lidl and
was also too slow in responding to that competition.
Separately on Thursday Wal-Mart reported higher than
expected quarterly sales at established U.S. stores.
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Goodman)