Tesco boss Dave Lewis has insisted that the grocer’s job is far from done as he continues his bid to transform the business.

The supermarket giant moved back into the black during the 52 weeks ending February 27, posting a statutory pre-tax profit of £162m – a significant turnaround from its mammoth £6.4bn loss the prior year.

But Lewis refused to suggest that Tesco had turned the corner, despite admitting he was “extremely pleased” with its full-year figures.

“We don’t at all think that the job is done. I suspect the job in retail is never done.”

Dave Lewis, Tesco

“We want to see how the first six months of this year go,” Lewis told journalists on a conference call this morning.

“We feel like we have stabilised the business, we don’t feel we are in the crisis that perhaps, being candid, we were in 16 months ago.

“We’ve made a huge amount of progress, but we are being clear – it’s a very challenging, very uncertain and deflationary market.”

Lewis added: “We don’t at all think that the job is done. I suspect the job in retail is never done.

“We’ve got much more that we would like to do and we have plans to improve yet further.”

Fourth-quarter growth

Tesco’s core UK business returned to like-for-like sales growth during its fourth quarter, posting a 0.9% uplift – its first quarterly increase in three years.

Lewis said the growth was “the culmination of everything we’ve built in the last 16 months” by improving availability, customer service, range and price, as well as the implementation of its Brand Guarantee initiative.

Tesco has stepped further onto the front foot since the year end by launching its entry-level ‘Farms’ brands, which Lewis said required “significant investment.”

The grocer’s chief executive hit back at criticism that has been volleyed Tesco’s way from some circles because the new ranges of fruit, vegetables and meat carry the names of fictional rather than real farms.

And he said the new ranges along with Brand Guarantee – which gives customers instant discounts at the till on their branded shop – would help Tesco achieve the “ultimate prize” of allowing customers to get everything they need in one shop, rather than having to visit numerous stores.

“Anything that one does in marketing will always attract a lot of discussion and comment,” Lewis said.

“But the thing that one must always do is focus on customers. We’ve been really clear with customers that we are creating brands here.

“I think, in fact I know, that the British customer is much more savvy about marketing than most people give them credit for.”

Lewis added: “Any way that we can identify for us to be able to serve Britain’s shoppers a little better every day – and drive that convenience of customers being able to get everything they want in one shop – would be the ultimate prize for time-starved customers in the UK and internationally.

“That’s what we are trying to do.”

Tesco back in the black as UK like-for-likes return to growth