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    Ocado Retail sales fall on labour shortages

    REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

    Online supermarket Ocado Retail on Tuesday reported a 3.9 per cent fall in revenue in its latest quarter year-on-year, with its performance held back by labour shortages.

    Ocado Retail, a joint venture between Ocado Group and Marks & Spencer, said revenue totaled £547.8 million in its fourth quarter to 28 November versus £570.1 million in the same quarter last year.

    The joint venture said that early in the quarter, headcount decreased across its delivery and customer fulfilment centre (CFC) roles due to changing conditions in the post-Covid-19 lockdown UK labour market but added that vacancies had since returned to more normal levels.

    It said average customer orders per week were up 8.5 per cent to 375,100 versus the prior year, driven by a 22 per cent increase in active customers to 832,000.

    However, the average basket’s value fell 12 per cent to 118 pounds as many consumers returned to the office and spent less time at home.

    The venture said that the participation of M&S products in orders continued to be strong, at nearly 30 per cent of the basket.

    It also highlighted cost inflation due to nationwide utility price increases and dry ice shortages and is mitigating these through various management measures.

    Ocado’s revenue had fallen 10.6 per cent in its third quarter, hurt by a July fire at its warehouse in Erith, southeast London, which disrupted operations.

    The JV said the 2020-21 outturn was expected to be in line with guidance.

    It forecast a return to mid-teens revenue growth in 2022, at the top of the historic pre-COVID-19 range of 10-15 per cent and plans investments of around 50 million pounds in 2022 across a variety of areas to support growth.

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