Asda has chartered its own cargo ship, and increased its stock of turkeys and other festive food compared with last year, in an effort to avoid disruption to customers’ Christmas celebrations.

It came as the UK’s third-largest grocer reported a dip in sales for the third quarter of 2021, as demand for online food deliveries waned slightly.

Asda has chartered a cargo ship (Rui Vieira/PA)

However, Asda is among supermarket chains expecting a strong festive period, after celebrations were heavily affected by Covid-19 and travel restrictions last year.

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The retailer told investors on Monday that it is “successfully navigating the industry-wide supply chain challenges” and made early preparations to ensure its shelves are stocked.

It said these preparations include increasing the volume of turkeys, and pigs in blankets, in store, compared with last year, as well as building extra stock of festive products such as mince pies, confectionery, Christmas cakes and puddings, at its depots.

The company, which was bought by the billionaire Issa brothers and private equity backers TDR Capital last year, has also chartered its own cargo ship to help deliver key festive products such as decorations and toys.

Asda has also recruited 15,000 extra temporary staff to cope with the predicted rise in demand from shoppers.

The supermarket group, which is operating without a chief executive after Roger Burnley left the firm earlier this year, also said that like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, declined by 0.7% in the quarter to September against the same period last year.

It added that like-for-like sales remained 2% higher than the same quarter in 2019, but that it was affected by a softening of online demand, with digital sales falling by 2.7%.

The retailer also told investors that it has continued the rapid expansion of its Asda On The Move convenience store operation, opening 30 sites on EG Group forecourts.

In a joint statement, Mohsin and Zuber Issa said: “Looking ahead, our plans to roll out Asda On The Move remain firmly on track and will open up significant growth opportunities in the convenience channel.

“We are also highly encouraged by the early uptake of our Asda Rewards loyalty programme and look forward to bringing this trial to customers in more stores next year.”