The Week Ahead: Updates due from Sainsbury’s, FirstGroup and Topps Tiles

Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe.

Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe. - Credit: PA

Supermarket Sainsbury’s looks set to report another slide in sales this week while the City will also see updates from transport operator FirstGroup and retailer Topps Tiles.

Sainsbury’s is expected to see sales slip again when the it updates on quarterly trading on Wednesday, although it appears to be doing better than rivals.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank expect the retailer to post second quarter like-for-like sales down 1.2%, as fierce supermarket competition continues to push prices down across the industry. It forecasts Sainsbury’s total sales will edge up 0.3%.

Sainsbury’s reported a 2.1% drop in same store sales excluding fuel in the 12 weeks to June 6, the sixth straight quarter of decline.

However, recent data suggests its sales performance is in better shape than big rivals Tesco, Morrisons and Asda. All four are battling for market share amid the growing threat from discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Latest till roll figures from Kantar Worldpanel for the 12 weeks to September 13 showed that Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket, saw sales slide 1% as its market share fell by 0.6% to 28.2% compared to a year ago.

Asda also saw its market share fall, by 0.6% to 16.7%, with sales down by 2.9%. Sales at Morrisons decreased by 1.4%, taking share down by 0.2% to 10.7%.

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Sainsbury’s was the only one of the big four to show growth with total sales rising by 0.9%, attracting 250,000 new shoppers through its doors, while it held its market share at 16.2%.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said that the supermarket’s growth was aided by the continued expansion of its Sainsbury’s Local outlets.

Brokers at Bernstein said the firm’s current performance made it “comfortably the best performer of the Big Four” on year-on-year growth comparison.

But this still leaves it facing a tough few years ahead. Analysts forecast Sainsbury’s will post full-year underlying earnings of £653million next spring, around 16% lower than a year ago.

HSBC’s David McCarthy said in a recent note: “We now expect profits to fall for the next three years as Sainsbury’s and the industry corrects strategic mistakes over pricing and expansion made over much of the last seven or eight years.”

During this time supermarkets let prices drift higher and built too many large out of town superstores as customers began to favour high street or online shopping.

Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe, who took over from long-standing predecessor Justin King in July last year, unveiled a wide-ranging plan to fight back in November which included price cuts to 1,100 items and improvements in quality to 3,000 own-brand products.

Transport operator FirstGroup will update the market on Friday on the progress of its plans to boost efficiency its bus division to make up for shortfalls at its rail business, which has lost a series of franchises.

However, bus restructuring work has been complicated by a combination of squeezed local authority budgets and a programme of extensive roadworks in a number of major urban areas that have caused delays.

FirstGroup currently runs around 6,300 buses in 40 regional towns and cities, including Ipswich and Colchester, from around 70 depots, servicing 1.7m passengers a day.

But it now operates only one significant rail franchise, Great Western. It has lost its Caledonian Sleeper franchise to Serco, failed in its bid to win the Essex Thameside business, which was retained by National Express, and seen its Capital Connect contract in London swallowed up as part of the larger Thameslink franchise, which was awarded to Govia.

The group also lost out on the lucrative East Coast line, which was won by Stagecoach and Virgin. However, it has been shortlisted for two franchises: Greater Anglia, which covers most services in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, and TransPennine.

Analysts at Investec said: “We also expect the group to target new rail franchises over the next two to three years, potentially pushing FirstGroup’s market share of UK Rail closer to its long run average.”

Retailer Topps Tiles is set to benefit from rising consumer wages, new stores and a product revamp when it posts its annual results on Wednesday.

The firm, which runs 348 stores, is expected to see full-year pre-tax profit jump 19% to £20.4m as it introduces upmarket boutique stores and launches more natural stone tiles and wood flooring.

The firm launched its boutique stores last January, aimed at bringing a sample of its product range from its large suburban outlets to high street stores.

Brokers at Peel Hunt said: “New boutique store trials continue to progress well and the business appears to be delivering increasing momentum in retail standards and product development.”

In July the country’s biggest biggest tile and wood flooring specialist posted strong third quarter like-for-like sales growth of 5.9%, with the improvement expected to have extended to into the full-year as wages continue to rise and the housing market remains brisk.

Analysts at Liberum said: “We see the positive outlook continuing driven by real wage growth, strong house prices and rising employment with a possible benefit from pensions draw down to come.”

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