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Monday, February 8, 1999 Published at 12:59 GMT

Business: The Company File

Safeway 'outperforms'

Safeway did good trade during Christmas

The UK grocery chain Safeway has reported strong sales growth during Christmas and the New Year in what the company describes as a 'fiercely competitive' trading environment.

Like-for-like sales - excluding new store space - grew by 3%, less than at the UK's biggest retailer, Tesco (4.1%), but comfortably stronger than at rival J Sainsbury (1.2%).

Total sales were up 3.5% on a year earlier. Safeway's chief executive, Colin Smith, said the group's measures to improve ranging, on-shelf availability, value, service and store quality were "sustaining our progress towards our objective of achieving second half profit recovery."

He claimed Safeway had outperformed the industry sales average for more than nine months, adding that "our business has never been in better shape to cope with this very demanding (competitive) environment."

Safeway said it achieved record sales during the key Christmas trading period despite "subdued demand across the sector and intense competition."

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