Tesco plans 8,000 new UK jobs as shoppers' confidence remains strong

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Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket group, said yesterday that sales had been strong since last week's terrorist attacks on the US and there was no evidence of shoppers panic buying or "stockpiling" groceries ahead of a potential conflict.

David Reid, the deputy chairman, said: "We need a time to stand back and reflect and see how the political situation unfolds. Initially, people were glued to their television sets but sales have not been bad.

"Governments try to put a brave face on these things to ensure that confidence doesn't collapse. We can play a part in that, showing that we're here and we're open. The business sees this as a challenge."

He said Tesco was having no problems sourcing goods from any market, adding that only a small percentage of goods came from the US, such as exotic fruits and Alaskan salmon.

Mr Reid said it was harder to determine the impact on Tesco's international business, where it has been investing heavily in Europe and the Far East.

The comments came as Tesco underlined its position as Britain's number one grocer with a 14 per cent increase in half-year profits to £481m.

Tesco plans to create 20,000 jobs worldwide this year, including 8,000 in the UK. The UK figure includes 1,000 jobs in two new distribution centres in Daventry and Thurrock. An aggressive expansion programme is already under way with 13 new stores opened in the first-half. Tesco is opening more Extra hypermarkets and Tesco Express convenience stores.

Like-for-like sales in the 24 weeks to 11 August were 7 per cent up on the same period last year. But Terry Leahy, the chief executive, cautioned that sales growth in the UK would return to more normal levels of 4 to 5 per cent in the second-half.

On Monday, Tesco launched a further £100m of price cuts across 3,500 products fuelling talk of a renewed supermarket price war.

Group sales in the six months were up 14.2 per cent to £11.5bn. Tesco shares fell 4.5p to 248p.