Morrisons waits for good news for months and then three come along at once.
The supermarket – which has, until now, been one of the more unloved – has already had one set of figures prove it's the only one of the big four in growth, which in turn prompted a share price rally, saving it from an undignified exit from the FTSE 100. And while there was something of a shareholder revolt at its AGM yesterday, relative to last year it was a breeze.
Today, a second set of figures compiled by Nielsen confirmed it was “currently on the right track”.
For the 12 weeks to May 23, Morrisons gew sales 0.8 per cent, the only one of the big four in growth. Tesco declined by 1.7 per cent, while Walmart-owned Asda fell 2.6 per cent.
Sales at Sainsbury and Co-operative were flat, whilst the other six all experienced year-on-year growth – led by the discounters Aldi (20.5 per cent) and Lidl (8.6 per cent).
Nielsen puts Aldi as the UK's fifth largest supermarket, above both the Co-operative and Waitrose, taking 5.9 per cent of UK consumer spend.
Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, acknowledged that Morrisons was being boosted by “the anniversary of the start of its price cutting a year ago”.
But this could be part of the reason for its success now, he suggested, saying: “Back then, Morrisons was one of the first supermarkets to strategically address the price gap to discounters.”
Looking at the sector as a whole, Nielsen reported a 0.5 per cent increase in sales volume during the four weeks to May 23 – the sixth consecutive month in growth.
However sales value fell 0.5 per cent over the same period – the 11th decline in 14 months.
Fresh foods were particularly under pressure, with sales of meat, fish and poultry dropping 3.2 per cent, dairy down 2.4 per cent and produce down 0.9 per cent.
But discounting is no longer luring shoppers into stores as it once was.
“In a deflationary market, after months of price cutting, lower prices are the norm and less of a factor influencing where consumers choose to shop,” Watkins warned.
“Consequently, supermarket growth now relies on attracting new shoppers and driving frequency of visit to build momentum towards the point when inflation eventually returns – probably early in 2016.”