Sainsbury’s sales dented by weak general merchandise and clothing demand

Mike Coupe, CEO of Sainsbury's, poses for a portrait at the company headquarters in London, on May 1, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 03 July 2019

Sainsbury’s sales dented by weak general merchandise and clothing demand

  • Sainsbury’s is the UK’s fifth-largest retailer by volume

LONDON: British supermarket group Sainsbury’s reported a third consecutive quarter of declining underlying sales, hurt by weak clothing and general merchandise markets.

The group, which had its £7.3 billion ($9.2 billion) takeover of rival Asda blocked by the UK competition regulator in April, said on Wednesday its like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, fell 1.6 percent in the 16 weeks to June 29, its fiscal first quarter.

The outcome compares with analysts’ forecasts in a range of down 1.1 percent to down 2 percent and a fall of 0.9 percent in the previous quarter.

“Retail markets remain highly competitive and promotional and the consumer outlook continues to be uncertain,” Sainsbury’s said.

The group said that while total grocery sales fell 0.5 percent, general merchandise sales declined 3.1 percent and clothing sales were down 4 percent.

Despite the sales falls, Sainsbury’s said it gained market share in key general merchandise categories and in clothing, where it is now the UK’s fifth largest retailer by volume.

Recent official data and updates from peers, including market leader Tesco, had already outlined a difficult backdrop for retailers in the period, reflecting ongoing political uncertainty and a tough comparison with the same quarter last year when Britain enjoyed record hot weather and major events including a royal wedding and the men’s soccer World Cup.

With Sainsbury’s shares down 37 percent over the past year, Chief Executive Mike Coupe is under pressure to show the group can prosper on its own after the Asda debacle. He will face investors on Thursday at the group’s annual shareholders’ meeting. In May he vowed to improve stores, cut prices on daily essentials and invest in online to restore sales growth.

Since February, Sainsbury’s has reduced prices on more than 1,000 own-brand products including dairy, meat, fish, poultry and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Prior to Wednesday’s update, analysts were forecasting that profits would go backwards in Sainsbury’s 2019-20 year. The pretax profit consensus was £632 million, down from the £635 million made in 2018-19.

Sainsbury’s market capitalization is about £4.43 billion.

Saudi female student pilot aims high with flying ambitions

Updated 17 min 26 sec ago

Saudi female student pilot aims high with flying ambitions

  • Amirah Al-Saif is among the first batch of 49 female students

DUBAI: Saudi women aiming to emulate Yasmeen Al-Maimani’s feat, the Kingdom’s first female commercial pilot, now have that opportunity as Oxford Aviation Academy has opened its doors for them to take flying lessons and earn their licenses.

One those women raring to earn her pilot wings is 19-year-old Amirah Al-Saif, who enrolled in the aviation academy to fulfill her dream of flying for the Kingdom’s national carrier Saudi Airlines (Saudia).

“They have been very supportive of us females,” Al-Saif, who hails from Riyadh, told Arab News at the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow, when asked about her experience at the academy.

Al-Saif is among the first batch of 49 female students, with six of them already in ground school, expected to receive their licenses by the start of 2021 after a grueling course that requires them to first learn English, Mathematics, Physics and other basic knowledge subjects.

She is also the first in the family to have an interest in the aviation industry.

Student pilot Amirah Al-Saif, right, who hails from Riyadh, is the first in the family to have an interest in the aviation industry. (Supplied)

Those who pass the foundation program can then move on to ground school for practical lessons and ideally graduate in two years with three licenses: the Private Pilot License, Instrument Rating and Commercial Pilot License.

Al-Saif considers herself lucky since she was not constrained take courses abroad for her pilot training, unlike Al-Maimani who had to leave the Kingdom to receive her license, as well as wait for a long time before being eventually hired by Nesma Airlines.

The flying school is located at the King Fahd International Airport in Dammam and is an authorized branch of Oxford Aviation Academy based in the UK.

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