Is this a case of too little too late or the beginning of a turnaround? Morrisons was the only one of the “big four” supermarkets to grow over the last 12 weeks, according to latest figures by Kantar Worldpanel.
The supermarket, which this week faces demotion from the FSTE 100, managed a sluggish 0.1 per cent increase in sales – less than the grocery sector, which rose by 0.2 per cent – but still outperforming its top rivals Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda.
Those three declined by 1.3 per cent, 2.4 per cent and 0.3 per cent respectively for the 12 weeks to May 24.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “Morrisons has returned to growth for the first time since December 2013 with a marginal sales increase - a welcome boost for new chief executive David Potts.
“A committed core of loyal Morrisons consumers is responding positively to recent initiatives and business has been boosted by online sales. Morrisons’ performance is an improvement on what was a difficult May 2014, so this is only the first step in any future recovery.”
Morrisons has held its market share at 10.9 per cent. Sainsbury’s has also held its share at 16.5 per cent despite sales falling by 0.3 per cent.
Tesco, which had started to show signs of improvements, has lost 0.4 percentage points from its market share, taking it down to 28.6 per cent.
Kantar said: “Strong performance from the Tesco Express convenience stores and its online channel has not been enough to compensate for falling sales in the larger outlets.”
McKevitt added: “All of the major supermarkets are finding growth difficult as prices have been declining since September 2014. Yet while like-for-like groceries are 1.9 per cent cheaper than this time last year this is not as steep a fall as last month, when prices were down by 2.1 per cent.
“This means that if current trends continue, prices will once again start rising by the end of the year.”
Lidl and Aldi meanwhile continue their assault on the sector, with the former reaching a record market share of 3.9 per cent, up from 3.6 per cent lsat year.
Aldi grew sales by 15.7 per cent, taking share to 5.4 per cent of the market, remaaining ahead of Waitrose, as the John Lewis-owned supermarket recording sales growth of just 1.6 per cent.
Iceland also returned to growth for the first time in a year this period, increasing sales by 1.9 per cent.