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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Safeway targets 'profitable' shoppers
Safeway supermarket in Wimbledon
Safeway is after high-spending shoppers
Safeway, the UK's fourth largest supermarket chain, has said it is to concentrate on attracting high-spending customers to maintain its growth.

Safeway's finance director, Simon Laffin, said the chain would ignore "cherry pickers" who concentrate on cheap items in promotions, and instead stock products that "profitable" shoppers wanted.

His comments came as Safeway reported sales growth figures which lagged behind two of its main rivals.

Underlying sales for the first half of the financial year grew by 1.9%, compared with 3.9% growth achieved by Tesco.

During the 16 weeks to 12 October, underlying sales grew 1.1% at Safeway, compared with 2.4% growth over the same period at Sainsbury.

But Safeway said it would report "solid" first-half profits, helped by good margin and cost management.

Playing its own game

"Safeway is a business in transition," said Mr Laffin.

"What we delivered (in the second quarter and the first half) were according to plan."

Safeway is currently rolling out new store formats and has introduced 900 new products this year in a drive to increase the average amount spent by each shopper.

"The sector is very competitive, with everyone playing the 'promotional game'," Mr Laffin said.

"We tend not to play other people's game. We will continue to play on our current strategy."

Bid speculation

Recent reports have suggested that rivals are preparing a takeover bid for Safeway, with Asda, owned by Wal-Mart, seen as the favourite.

But Safeway said it planned to stay independent.

"We've said three to four weeks ago that we didn't receive any approaches and we have nothing to add to that," said Mr Laffin.

"We will continue to build on a strong, independent Safeway and that's what we're currently focused on."

In the City, Safeway shares closed 0.5p lower at 214p.

See also:

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