Tesco scraps 24-hour opening in 76 stores - including Lowestoft and Dereham

File photo dated 01/08/12 of a sign for a Tesco store, as an investigation into the company's relati

File photo dated 01/08/12 of a sign for a Tesco store, as an investigation into the company's relationships with suppliers is now due to be published towards the end of January, almost a year after the regulator said it had "reasonable suspicion" that the supermarket giant had breached the Groceries Supply Code of Practice. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday December 28, 2015. The Groceries Code Adjudicator previously said its inquiry, which began in early February, would be completed within six to nine months "and certainly by the end of this year". It had an April deadline for taking evidence. See PA story CONSUMER Tesco. Photo credit should read: Rui Vieira/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Lowestoft Tesco Superstore and Dereham Tesco Extra will no longer be open 24-hours a day in what the supermarket chain has called a way to 'improve the shopping experience for customers'.

The UK's biggest grocery chain said 76 of its stores would be hit by the move, with a 'minimal' impact on staff.

Tesco said the rise in popularity of online shopping meant it was no longer seeing many customers in stores overnight.

The change will come into force between March 14 and April 11 this year when opening times at 24-hour stores change to between 6am and midnight.

Tesco has 3,500 stores across the UK employing more than 310,000 people.

Tony Hoggett, Tesco retail director, said staff would still work during the night to re-stack shelves and get stores ready for the next day's trading.

He added: 'We're always thinking about how to serve our customers better in each of our stores and with the growth of online grocery shopping, these stores saw very few customers during the night.'

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The announcement comes after Tesco posted a surprise rise in sales over the festive season in what proved to be a stronger-than-expected period for the grocery sector.

The supermarket hailed a 'strong Christmas' after revealing a 1.3pc rise in UK like-for-like sales over the six weeks to January 9.

Tesco said it attracted more shoppers and sold more items, with transactions over the six-week period up 3.4pc.

It said lower prices - of around 5pc year-on-year on key items - and moves to add 4,000 additional 'Here to Help' staff in stores helped the sales improvement.

Group-wide like-for-like sales rose 2.1pc in the six weeks, thanks to a 4.1pc surge in its international arm.

The result marked a welcome improvement after a grim couple of years, with Tesco uncovering a £326m accounting black hole in autumn 2014 that plunged the group into crisis, while in April last year it reported a staggering £6.4bn loss.

The big four supermarkets have been locked in a price war in a bid to protect market share following the rise of German rivals Lidl and Aldi.