Trading in the first three months of 2021, which coincided with the UK’s third national lockdown, saw Asda’s like for like sales increase by 7.3 per cent, boosted by online shopping and strong growth in non-food categories.
The Leeds-based firm said like-for-like clothing sales leapt 31 per cent.
General merchandise sales soared 39 per cent, driven by strong demand for outdoor furniture, barbecues and garden accessories, as customers prepared to host friends and families outdoors and for an easing of lockdown restrictions at the end of the quarter.
Like-for-like food sales rose 3.9 per cent as customers stocked up on core grocery lines and household staples. In addition, customers continued to embrace online shopping with total digital sales (Asda.com and George.com) up 88 per cent year-on-year.
Asda said it provided an extensive range of support during the quarter to colleagues and local communities impacted by the pandemic. In February, it became the first supermarket to support the NHS Covid vaccination programme using its in-store pharmacies, and has since administered more than 50,000 jabs.
Asda said it also moved quickly to shield more than 5,000 extremely clinically vulnerable colleagues during the third national lockdown by guaranteeing to pay their contracted hours if they chose not to work. This aligned with the approach taken at the start of the pandemic when Asda protected thousands of vulnerable colleagues by offering them the opportunity to shield at home on 12-weeks full pay, rather than using the Government’s furlough scheme.
Roger Burnley, Asda CEO and president, said: “We showed huge resilience last year in unprecedented circumstances and carried this momentum through the first quarter with strong like-for-like sales growth in many key categories, especially clothing and general merchandise.
"Whilst the closure of non-essential retail during the first quarter helped stimulate demand, our constant focus on keeping prices low, providing great quality products and developing in-store partnerships with market leading consumer brands such as B&Q, The Entertainer and Greggs, continues to resonate with customers.
“During the first quarter we continued to support our colleagues and communities impacted by the pandemic and are hugely proud of the role our pharmacy colleagues have played supporting the NHS in the Covid vaccination rollout.
"Although the pandemic is not over yet, there are signs that our customers are feeling much more optimistic about the future, with almost 60 per cent of those we recently spoke to saying they are looking forward to a summer of socialising with friends and family.”
The acquisition of Asda by the Issa Brothers and TDR Capital remains subject to final regulatory approval by the Competition and Markets Authority.