McDonald's sales drop for the first time in 9 years

McDonald's sales at restaurants open at least 13 months fell 1.8 percent, its first drop since 2003. McDonald's has seen sales slow recently amid intensifying competition and a persistently weak economy. 

Brendan McDermid/Reuters/File
A couple stands in line at McDonald's in New York's Times Square, in this July 2012 file photo. McDonald's posted its first drop in sales in nine years Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2012, lifting the curtain on the fast-food industry's ruthless fight for customers in a weak economy.

McDonald's Corp. says a key sales figure fell in October, marking the first monthly drop in nearly a decade for the world's biggest hamburger chain.

The U.S.-based company says global revenue at restaurants open at least 13 months fell 1.8 percent for the month. The last time it dropped was in 2003.

The figure is a key metric because it strips out the impact of newly opened and closed locations. The figures are a snapshot of money spent on food at both company-owned and franchised restaurants. They do not reflect corporate revenue.

The fast-food chain says the figure fell 2.2 percent in both the U.S. and Europe. In the region encompassing Asia, the Middle East and Africa, it dropped 2.4 percent.

After years of outperforming its rivals, McDonald's has seen sales slow recently amid intensifying competition and a persistently weak economy. To rev up sales, the company has been working to emphasize value in markets around the world.

In particular, McDonald's is facing stiffer competition from longtime rivals Burger King and Wendy's, which are reviving their brands with new ad campaigns and improved menus.

Still, McDonald's said it would remain focused on underscoring its value message in the U.S.

The same was true for Europe, where McDonald's gets 40 percent of its business. Amid the region's ongoing economic uncertainty, McDonald's said it would offer new meal combinations at various price ranges and continue remodeling restaurants.

In the Asia, the company said it plans to differentiate itself with menu offerings tailored to local tastes.

McDonald's shares were down 61 cents at $86.23 in premarket trading. CEO Don Thompson had warned last month that sales were trending negative for the month.

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