(Corrects paragraph six to 13 pounds per week, not per month)
* Q3 like-for-like sales, ex fuel and VAT, up 0.3 pct
* Result is slowdown from Q2 growth of 0.7 pct
* Asda says growth is still ahead of the market
* Says customers see worse economy in 2013
* CEO calls for freeze on fuel duty
By James Davey and Rhys Jones
LONDON, Nov 15 Asda, the British arm of U.S.
retailer Wal-Mart, said underlying sales growth slowed
in its latest quarter, though it remained one of the few major
UK grocers still seeing growth.
Britain's retailers are mostly struggling as consumers'
disposable incomes are eroded by rising prices, subdued wages
growth and government austerity measures. Grocers traditionally
cope better in tough economic times thanks to their focus on
essential goods but even they are finding the going tough.
"These are solid results in a tough market," said Asda Chief
Executive Andy Clarke, noting Asda had increased its market
share to 17.5 percent, up 10 basis points year-on-year.
Official data on Thursday showed British retail sales posted
a surprise fall in October as shoppers cut back on food and
clothing purchases, reducing the chances consumers will boost
the economy in the final quarter.
That data came a day after the Bank of England warned that
Britain faced years of meagre economic growth coupled with
rising prices, adding that its ability to numb the pain was
nearing its limit.
Clarke told reporters a survey of its customers conducted
last month found they were on average 13 pounds ($20.6) per week
worse off than two years ago.
"Two thirds of mums surveyed tell us they expect 2013's
economy to be more challenging than this year," he said.
Clarke joined calls for a freeze in fuel duty, saying a 3
pence per litre hike planned by the government for January
"would come at the worst possible time for families who will
already be feeling the cost of Christmas and energy price
Asda, Britain's second-biggest supermarket chain behind
Tesco, said sales at shops open more than a year,
excluding fuel and VAT sales tax, were up 0.3 percent in the 13
weeks to Sept. 29, its fiscal third quarter.
That rise was below the 0.7 percent uplift Asda recorded in
its second quarter.
Last month Tesco reported a 12.4 percent fall in first-half
UK trading profit, while last week No.4 grocer Morrisons
posted a 2.1 percent fall in third-quarter underlying sales,
highlighting high levels of promotional activity.
No. 3 player Sainsbury's has, however, been
outperforming, posting a 5.4 percent rise in first-half profit
The performance of Asda, which trades from 555 UK stores
serving over 18 million shoppers a week, reflects its focus on
low prices for key commodities such as bread, milk and eggs, as
well as revamped fresh food lines and increased penetration of
own-brand food ranges.
The firm has benefited from its price guarantee offering to
refund customers the difference, via a voucher, if an online
price comparison website does not show their shopping is at
least 10 percent cheaper than at a rival.
Recent industry data has shown Asda increasing sales faster
than its main rivals, apart from Sainsbury's, into its fourth
Asda's sales data was released as parent Wal-Mart posted
quarterly sales below analysts' expectations.
($1 = 0.6310 British pounds)
(Editing by Sarah Young and Helen Massy-Beresford)