New Tesco boss says Christmas 2020 can still be a merry one

LONDON, Oct 7 (Reuters) - The new boss of Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket group, said he expected the country to celebrate Christmas in a big way this year despite a recession and government curbs on socialising to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Ken Murphy, who succeeded Dave Lewis as Tesco CEO last week, said Britons would be particularly keen to enjoy Christmas after such a miserable year.

“The overarching sense I feel that Christmas this year is all about - is giving ourselves and each other a break...and kind of celebrating the fact that we’re all still alive, that we’re all still healthy, that we’re as well as we can be and that we have our closest friends and family near by us,” he told reporters after Tesco reported half year results.

“That’s going to be quite a big deal this year after a very tough year for many, many people,” he said.

Murphy said part of his optimism for Christmas followed “quite strong” Halloween related sales so far.

“You try telling a 10-year old that Halloween’s cancelled,” he said, looking forward to the chocolate-fueled celebrations at the end of the month.

Social gatherings in England are restricted to no more than six people to try to contain the coronavirus and large parts of the country face additional local restrictions.

Americans have been advised to avoid door-to-door trick-or-treating, attending crowded and indoor parties, and wearing costume masks this Halloween, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While supermarket sales in Britain could be impacted by restrictions on households mixing, they will benefit from new curbs on the opening hours of bars and restaurants.

Former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King, currently a non-executive director of Marks & Spencer, said last month that Christmas was likely to be characterised by people having more smaller gatherings spread over the whole of the two-week holiday period. (Reporting by James Davey Editing by Keith Weir)