Asda has posted its first quarterly sales growth in three years as a fight back led by chief executive Sean Clarke begins to bear fruit.
The supermarket, owned by US giant Walmart, reported a 1.8 per cent rise in like-for-likes sales in the second quarter, bringing an end to 11 consecutive quarters of deterioration.
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Figures have been boosted by a combination of price cuts and rising inflation, and come a year after Asda reported its worst quarterly performance on record when sales tumbled by 7.5 per cent.
Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon said: “We’re also encouraged that the UK delivered positive comparative sales.
“In June, I visited Asda to see the progress being made. Customers are responding to investments in price and store experience by visiting the stores more often and increasing their basket sizes.
“There’s still much more to be done, but we’re clearly headed in the right direction.”
Clarke, who took up the reins last summer after being parachuted in to replace previous boss Andy Clarke, has slashed the prices of everyday items as part of attempts to arrest falling sales. The move has also seen Asda improve the quality of its own-brand ranges.
“Our continued focus on delivering great value and service meant 275,000 new customers chose to shop at Asda in the second quarter, particularly during Easter, which saw us return to positive comp growth,” Clarke said.
“Recognition should go to our store colleagues for the progress made from 2016 but we know we need to continue to up our game to be in the best shape possible.
“We will continue to work collaboratively with our suppliers to create the best products, make investments where they matter most to our customers, and ensure that we are fit for purpose in what remains a competitive market.”
During the quarter, Asda enjoyed one of its most successful Easter trading periods on record, with sales up 16 per cent. Removing the benefit of Easter from the results, like-for-like sales were up 0.7 per cent.
The latest numbers will come as welcome relief to the supermarket’s US owner and follow a disastrous 2016, in which Asda booked a 3.2 per cent fall in sales to £21.7 billion and pre-tax profits crashed almost 19 per cent to £791.7 million.
All of the so-called “big four” supermarkets – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – have suffered as German discounters Aldi and Lidl have eaten into their market share.