Britain’s grocery sales lack festive spirit

98 percent of Britons visited a big four supermarket — Dave Lewis’ (below) Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda — in the past three months. Reuters Tesco Group Chief Executive, Dave Lewis speaks at an analyst presentation in London, Britain, April 12, 2017. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 December 2019

Britain’s grocery sales lack festive spirit

  • Sales of popular Christmas food purchases are down compared with last year

LONDON: Sales growth at Britain’s supermarkets slowed in the last quarter, industry data showed on Tuesday, as shoppers delayed their festive season preparations ahead of a national election on Dec. 12. 

Market researcher Kantar said all of Britain’s big four supermarket groups — market leader Tesco, Sainsbury’s , Asda and Morrisons — recorded sales declines over the period and lost market share to the German-owned discounters Aldi and Lidl which are aggressively opening new stores. Kantar said total British grocery sales rose 0.5 percent year-on-year in the 12 weeks to Dec. 1, having increased 1 percent in its November data set. 

“We’re yet to see consumers ramp up their spending in the run up to Christmas and, as anticipated, Black Friday only brought a limited boost for the grocers,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar. 

“With the general election now only days away, people are waiting to fill their cupboards for the festive break,” he said, noting, for example, that sales of Christmas puddings and seasonal biscuits are down 16 percent and 12 percent in the past four weeks, compared with this time last year. Kantar said sales at Tesco fell 0.8 percent over the period, while Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Morrisons saw sales declines of 1.1 percent, 1.9 percent and 2.9 percent respectively. 

In contrast Aldi’s sales were up 6.2 percent and Lidl’s rose 9.3 percent, giving a combined market share of 14.1 percent. 

“While the big four all lost share in the past 12 weeks, 98 percent of the British public still visited at least one of their stores during the past three months,” said McKevitt. “Based on previous years, we expect them to increase their proportion of sales in the coming weeks as shoppers turn to familiar favourites and the traditional retailers in December.” 

Kantar said it was too early to say if Tesco’s new “Clubcard Plus” loyalty subscription scheme, launched last month, has had an impact on sales. Shares in Britain’s big supermarket chain were all down in early trade in London.


Indonesia hails ‘historic’ $22.9bn mega-investment deal with UAE

Updated 17 January 2020

Indonesia hails ‘historic’ $22.9bn mega-investment deal with UAE

  • Leaders agree initial $6.8bn projects plan, including initiative to build a replica of Abu Dhabi grand mosque in Java

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s business community on Thursday welcomed the UAE’s pledge to pump tens of billions of dollars into a wide range of key sector projects.

President Joko Widodo and his entourage secured an overall $22.9 billion deal during an official two-day visit to Abu Dhabi earlier this week covering the fields of energy, logistics, port construction, mining, and agriculture.

It was also revealed that the delegation brokered a UAE commitment to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund.

At a bilateral meeting, the Indonesian leader and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan witnessed the signing of 11 business accords between the two countries. Indonesia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said the UAE had committed to investing $6.8 billion out of the total agreed spending package into the initiatives.

Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s chief minister for maritime affairs and investment, described the UAE’s pledges as possibly being “the biggest deals in Indonesia’s history, secured with the UAE within only six months,” referring to the crown prince’s visit to Indonesia last July.

While most lauded the deal, some Indonesian business leaders remained cautious over the long-term prospects for the projects.

Fachry Thaib, head of the Middle East Committee and OIC at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, said the schemes could trigger a wide-ranging domino effect through job creation and other business ventures.

“The government needs to have a strong lobbying team that can follow up these deals and push them into investment realizations. We have had such commitments from other Gulf countries, but there was no further lobbying and the pledges were hardly realized,” he told Arab News.

Zaini Alawi, a businessman who exports and imports between Indonesia and the Middle East, said: “It would set a good precedent to attract other Gulf countries to invest here if Indonesia shows it could aptly manage these investment deals.”

Director for Middle East affairs at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, Achmad Rizal Purnama, told Arab News that the $6.8 billion commitment from the UAE was only the first phase of a long-term program.

Widodo and the crown prince also witnessed the signing of five government cooperation agreements in health, agriculture, Islamic affairs, and counterterrorism.

Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs Fachrul Razi said one of the main aspects of the cooperation agreement would be the promotion of religious moderation and raising awareness of the dangers of extremism.

FASTFACT

The UAE has pledged to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund.

Noting that the UAE had pledged to fund the construction of a replica of the Abu Dhabi grand mosque in Solo, the president’s hometown in Java, the minister pointed out that the grant was part of a commitment by the two countries to establish a mosque that welcomed all people and served a pivotal role in promoting the middle path of Islam.

Riza Widyarsa, a Middle East expert at the University of Indonesia, told Arab News that the cooperation deal could help more Indonesians to understand that not all countries in the Middle East observed conservative Islam. “They are also very active in countering religious extremism and radicalism,” he said.

In addition to the multi-billion-dollar projects, Purnama said Indonesia had also secured the UAE’s commitment to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund into which the UAE, the US International Development Finance Corporation, and Japan’s SoftBank would inject funding.

And according to Pandjaitan, the UAE had pledged to be “the biggest contributor” to the fund.

The fund would be used to finance Indonesia’s ambitious infrastructure development projects and the construction of its proposed new capital in East Kalimantan, a relocation that has been estimated to cost $33 billion and of which Indonesia could only afford 19 percent.

He said all parties involved would meet in Tokyo soon to set up the structure of the fund and to finalize the plan, which the government expected to launch by mid-2020, a year after the crown prince proposed the idea to Widodo.

“This could be the first time that big capitalists work together in a single project,” Pandjaitan added.