Tesco chief exec

Increases in sales volume for Booker retailers amid the coronavirus outbreak have been “significantly more” than the multiples, according to Tesco UK boss Dave Lewis.

During a briefing about the supermarket group’s finances for the year ending 29 February, Lewis said trade for Booker’s catering and food service business had seen a significant reduction in trade due to the closure of customers in the sector.

While availability levels for the supermarket were returning to normal levels, Booker customers had reported their cash and carries had no or low levels of stock.

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When asked by betterRetailing what Tesco was doing to ensure availability for partnered Booker retailers, Lewis said: “Retail has seen significant volume increases. Interestingly, this has been in a completely different mix to what they normally sell. They’ve seen a 10-fold increase in demand for flour.

“As we’ve recovered volume from Tesco, we’ve made it available to Tesco and Booker where appropriate. The increases we’ve seen in the convenience sector is significantly more than what we’ve seen in the large retail sector. We’re using the whole group to recover supply.”

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The results showed sales at Booker for the year grew annually by 3.8% excluding to tobacco (2.9% including tobacco), “despite a challenging market in both wholesale and retail, with small business confidence remaining low.”

By comparison, Tesco’s sales for the UK and Republic of Ireland dropped annually from £56.9bn to £56.5bn, while group operating profit rose from £2.6m to £2.9m.

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Lewis also revealed the capacity for home deliveries had increased by more than 20%, adding an additional 145,000 delivery slots. Booker staff had also been redeployed to support Tesco’s distribution network during the coronavirus epidemic.

“We’ll add more and prioritise capacity for who the government has identified as vulnerable,” Lewis said. However, he said Tesco was unable give the government list of the vulnerable to Booker to support its retailers due to data protection laws.

Find out more on our coronavirus information hub for retailers