* Q1 UK lfl sales up 6.6 pct
* Ireland, Germany and Switzerland sales up
* Group sales up 12.3 pct to 164.1 mln stg
* Expects 2013 trading in line with market expectations
LONDON, April 4 (Reuters) - Domino’s Pizza, Britain’s biggest pizza delivery firm, shook off a slow, snow-hit start to the year as new offerings and promotions helped it to post a strong first quarter sales rise.
The group, which operates the British, Irish, German and Swiss franchises of the global delivery brand, on Thursday said like-for-like sales at its 670 established UK stores rose by 6.6 percent in the 13 weeks to March 31.
Underlying UK sales had grown by just 1.6 percent in the first seven weeks of the year as heavy snow hit trade and forced store closures. But sales improved significantly later on as customers snapped up new products like hot dog stuffed crust and took advantage of a new short-term buy one get one free offer.
Online sales represented 62 percent of UK delivered sales, up from 50 percent the year before, the group said, adding that it expected trading in 2013 to be in line with market forecasts.
Like-for-like sales in Ireland rose by 8.1 percent in the period, while sales were also up in its fledgling German and Swiss markets. Group total sales rose 12.3 percent to 164.1 million pounds.
Domino’s has performed well during the economic downturn with its vast range of promotion led offers chiming well with customers looking for cheaper alternatives to eating out.
The group will open another 60 stores in the UK this year and double its number in Germany to 36. Domino’s has said it sees its German business eventually outgrowing its British arm and expects it to be profitable by the end of 2015.
Shares in the firm, which in February posted an 11 percent rise in 2012 profit to 46.7 million pounds, closed at 571 pence on Wednesday, up 7 percent in the last three months and valuing the business at around 934 million pounds.
“We know that the ongoing economic pressures are leading to a tough trading environment and we have extremely tough comps in the second quarter to overcome as well as food cost increases coming through during the year,” Chief Executive Lance Batchelor.
“But with first class franchisees and a strong head office team, I expect, at this early stage in the year, that trading will be in line with market expectations for 2013.”