• France like-for-like sales fell 0.3%
  • Like-for-like sales in Europe declined 3.8%
  • Latin America sales rose 10%

Carrefour has booked a drop in first-quarter sales, hit by weakness in its French hypermarkets and a "difficult" trading environment in Europe.

The world's second-largest retailer recorded a 0.1% drop in like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, for the first three months of 2012. The group said it was hit by "continued weakness" in its French hypermarkets and in southern Europe, where shoppers cut back on purchases of non-food items.

In France, like-for-like sales fell 0.3%, excluding gasoline and currency moves, while French hypermarket sales decreased 3.1% on the same basis. Supermarket sales, however, rose 1.8%. Sales at other formats, mostly convenience and cash-and-carry stores, climbed 9.8%.

In the rest of Europe, like-for-like sales declined 3.8%, excluding gasoline and currency moves, as falls in Greece and Spain offset an improved performance in Belgium and Poland.

In Latin America, sales rose 10%, driven by continuing progress in hypermarkets in Brazil, while Asia sales dropped 0.3% on the back of lower sales in China.

Carrefour's top line improved, with sales up 0.9% at EUR22.49bn (US$29.51bn).

"The trends we observed this quarter and the persistently difficult trading environment confirm our determination to pursue the execution of our Reset plan in France, focus on cash and cost efficiency, further extend our Carrefour-branded product offer and continue expanding in emerging markets," said Carrefour chairman and CEO Lars Olofsson.

Olofsson is set to leave the business in June after its shareholders meeting. He will be replaced by former executive Georges Plassat, who has rejoined the company from fashion retailer Vivarte and is currently Carrefour's COO until Olofsson's exit.