Carrefour saw its group like-for-like sales increase a healthy 4.2% in the first quarter of 2021 after solid performance in its domestic market and some of its international operations.

However, the figure was down on the 7.8% growth recorded during 2020 after the group faced tougher comparatives with the same period last year which was boosted by consumers stockpiling at the start of the pandemic.

In its home market of France, Europe’s largest retailer saw like-for-like growth of 3.5% with market share gains after a robust performance in all channels. Hypermarkets, which Carrefour has been working on to improve their performance, saw sales increase 3.3%, whilst supermarkets were up 7%. 

However, convenience stores suffered a 2.8% decline in sales due to Covid curfews that penalized evening shopping.

Spain (+1.7%) and Belgium (+2.9%) both deliver delivered like-for-like gains, although Carrefour’s operations in Italy (-11.3%), Poland (-2.3%), and Romania (-1.8%) were impacted by pandemic-related trading restrictions. Meanwhile, its business in Brazil continued its strong run with like-for-like sales up 11.6%.

After a potential takeover by Couche-Tard unravelled due to government opposition, Carrefour stated in February that it was confident it could accelerate its turnaround after delivering robust growth last year.

The retailer is in the middle of a five-year plan launched in 2018 to cut costs to lift profits, as well as boost e-commerce investment to tackle competition from the likes of Amazon. It is also expanding convenience store chains to reduce its reliance on hypermarkets, whilst focusing more on organic products and own-label.

Showing confidence in its turnaround plan, the group announced yesterday that it plans to buy back shares (worth €500m) for the first time in a decade.

“Our share buyback programme is yet another sign of our confidence in the future and our ability to generate cash, a confidence renewed by our very good commercial performance in France,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Alexandre Bompard after the company kept all its financial and operational targets under its ‘Carrefour 2022’ strategic plan.