Asda sales edge higher

Asda returned to growth by the narrowest of margins at the start of this year as the supermarket chain battles against price-cutting rivals.

CPP Group sold card protection on behalf of lenders including HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland
CPP Group sold card protection on behalf of lenders including HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland

The retailer said like-for-like sales - revenue in shops open for more than a year - rose 0.1% in the 15 weeks to April 20 compared with the same period last year. This contrasts with the Christmas quarter, where sales slipped 0.1%.

Asda, which has 579 stores and is part of the US retail giant Wal-Mart, said the modest rise showed its five-year plan launched in 2013 to spend £1 billion on cutting prices across a range of goods for shoppers was working.

Asda and the other big four supermarkets - Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons - continue to be squeezed between discount retailers such as Aldi and Lidl and upmarket rival Waitrose.

Chief executive Andy Clarke said: "In what remains a challenging market I am pleased to see that our strategy is paying dividends.

"Over 18 months ago we recognised the beginnings of a structural shift in the retail market and by looking at our business and how it needed to change we have been able to get ourselves ahead of the curve."

Asda said that during the period it saw "double digit growth" at its newly launched George Home range, while its share of online market had grown to 19.2% via its grocery home shopping division.

Last week till-roll data from market researcher Kantar Worldpanel showed UK grocery sales growing at their slowest rate for at least 11 years over the past three months, due to the mounting pressure on supermarkets to cut prices.