PARIS (AP) — Struggling big box retailer Carrefour marked a slight increase in revenue for the first quarter, with strong growth in Latin America just offsetting declining sales in Europe.
Europe's biggest retailer by revenue said Thursday that it generated €22.49 billion ($29.53 billion) in sales from January to March. That represents a 1.5 percent increase over the same quarter last year and just beat expectations of €22.45 billion, the consensus of analysts surveyed by FactSet.
The company's stock edged up Thursday after the figures were released, closing the day up 0.6 percent at €16.18.
Business was strongest in Latin America, where the retailer marked an 8.1 percent increase in revenue. But sales on that continent make up only 20 percent of Carrefour's total.
The company's weak spot — but also its core market — is Europe, where a debt crisis and the global economic downturn are decimating sales and changing consumer behavior. Carrefour's model is built on hypermarkets, the massive one-stop shops it pioneered. In Europe, it is now trying to switch to smaller stores and is also working on lowering prices — and getting the word out to customers — after abandoning a plan to build more upscale stores.
In France, which accounts for 40 percent of the company's revenue, sales barely increased in the first quarter. The company has warned that sales may be lackluster there until it completes the turnaround plan.
Sales in the rest of Europe, which make up nearly 30 percent of the company's total, fell 3.2 percent. Southern Europe has been especially hard hit, just as it has borne the brunt of the European debt crisis.
"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 ... and continue expanding in emerging markets," said chief executive Lars Olofsson.
This will be Olofsson's last full quarter as CEO. Amid the company's woes and dissatisfaction among some shareholders, he announced earlier this year that he would step down. Georges Plassat, formerly chief executive of Vivarte, a clothing company, takes over in June; he has already joined the company for the transition.