• FY sales up 0.5% to EUR91.5bn
  • Q4 sales down 0.8% to EUR24.2bn
  • Company “needs to adapt” to changing retail scene

Carrefour, the world’s second largest retailer, posted a small increase in full-year sales after what one analyst described as a “dire” year.

The France-based company blamed a “deteriorating environment” for impacting non-food trading in Southern Europe in particular during 2011.

Fourth quarter sales fell 0.8%, with sales in France declining 2.4% and revenues in Europe outside France down 4.3%, despite a turnaround in Belgium.

A 6.8% rise in sales in Latin America was driven by a recovery in hypermarket sales in Brazil, plus continued growth at Atacadao.

Meanwhile, sales in Asia were up 2.8%, thanks to expansion in China, which offset lower non-food sales.

Carrefour confirmed its full-year income guidance, but at the lower end of its range, expecting a 15-20% fall in operating income during 2011.

Carrefour chairman and CEO Lars Olofsson said: “In the current challenging environment, Carrefour is focusing its efforts on executing its action plan in France and Southern Europe, aiming at consistent lower prices and more targeted promotions.

“At the same time, while increasing its focus on cash and cost efficiency, Carrefour will continue rolling out its multi-channel strategy, broadening its Carrefour-branded product offer and expanding in emerging markets.”

Retail research and consultancy firm Conlumino said the results capped a “pretty dire” year for Carrefour, in which it had five profit warnings, a failed merger in Brazil and strategic difficulties in Europe.

“In reality, whatever refurbishment it goes through, a Carrefour hypermarket is never going to be on par with a department store along the lines of Printemps or Galeries Lafayette,” said Conlumino lead consultant Simon Chinn.

“Carrefour’s focus should be on improving its multi-channel shopping capabilities for customers, with greater integration of its web with physical store offer, something that its rival Casino has done well and reaped the benefits from.”

The company will announces its full-year results on 8 March.