It’s been a long, dark tunnel for Asda – one it has been attempting to crawl its way out of for almost three years.
But this Thursday should provide an eagerly-awaited light, in the shape of some desperately needed quarterly sales growth.
It’s been a while since Asda has been able to laud that – 11 consecutive quarters, in fact.
During that period, it hit what former boss Andy Clarke described as its “nadir”, a 4.7% slump in sales in the 11 weeks to June 30, 2015.
Unfortunately for the Walmart-owned business, there were numbers even more eye-watering than that on the horizon.
A 5.8% slump in the golden quarter of 2015 was soon followed by a 7.5% nosedive in the second quarter of last year, revealed just after new chief executive Sean Clarke took the reins.
But that poor comparable is expected to work in Clarke’s favour this week in his ongoing bid to engineer a turnaround.
“While stopping the rot of decline would undoubtedly represent an important first step for the business, that is all it could be described as”
He has ploughed further investment into improving product quality, and driven up standards when it comes to customer service.
But even if such improvements help Asda report the sales growth we anticipate this week, that light will certainly not signify the end of the tunnel.
While stopping the rot of decline would undoubtedly represent an important first step for the business, that is all it could be described as.
The latest Kantar figures revealed that, while Asda grew sales 1% in the 12 weeks to June 18, it continues to lag behind its mainstream rivals and the discounters.
And the discounters continued to gobble up market share, as Lidl and Aldi enjoyed 19.4% and 17.9% sales spikes respectively.
Such figures demonstrate that Asda’s recovery remains a work in progress and Clarke will not let his head office colleagues in Leeds, or those in stores, forget that.
Last week’s news that the grocer has put more than 3,000 shopfloor staff into consultation across 18 underperforming stores served as a stark reminder of its current plight.
Despite the efforts of Clarke, deputy chief executive Roger Burnley and the rest of the Asda team, the initiatives they have implemented haven’t proved enough to fix every store.
A weak year-on-year comparable, the later fall of Easter and warm weather during May and June will all work in Asda’s favour when it reports second-quarter sales this week.
But with plenty of hard work still to do, expect Asda’s sales to crawl along for a few more quarters yet before it can stand tall again.