The Northern grocer last week hailed a “profit recovery on track” as interim operating profits surged 57 per cent to £247 million on turnover up 2.8 per cent to £6 billion.

Like-for-likes climbed 2.7 per cent and rose to 3 per cent in the first seven weeks of the second half.

Chief executive Marc Bolland said: “We have made a strong start to our objective of becoming the food specialist for everyone, with a positive customer response to our rebranding and many improvements in stores.”

Deutsche Bank, advising hold, was “positively surprised” by current trading and upgraded its second-half EBIT forecast from£244 million to£256 million.

Panmure Gordon, recommending sell, was impressed by the interim figures, but warned: “Life gets more difficult from here, with renewed sales momentum depending on the success of new marketing initiatives and price investment being higher than everybody else.”