Mike Coupe

Mike Coupe has spoken of 'fierce' challenges that lie ahead

Sainsbury's has returned to profit, despite a 'fiercely competitive' market causing turnover to slump. The retailer's pre-tax profit for the 2015-16 year was £548 million, up from the previous year's £72m loss, albeit one which related to the falling value of its properties.

The group sales – excluding VAT but including fuel – figure for 2015-16 was down from £23.8bn to £23.5bn.

As FPJ went to press on Wednesday (4 May), Sainsbury's share price was down by about 15 per cent. Its CEO Mike Coupe (pictured) told the BBC: 'Prices are actually four per cent lower than two years ago, and that's a reflection of the fact that the market is fiercely competitive, and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.'

The results were revealed as Kantar Worldpanel grocery market share data for the 12 weeks to 24 April 2016 showed that the big-four grocery retailers posted a decline in their rate of growth, as supermarket sales increased by just 0.1 per cent on this time last year.

The Co-operative upped its market share to 6.2 per cent, though, as refurbished stores and an improvement in range resulted in shoppers visiting more frequently and spending more per trip. Waitrose also gained market share in this period, up by 0.1 percentage points to 5.2 per cent, aided by a 1.5 per cent rise in sales.

The discounters maintained their record share high of 10.4 per cent, which they first reached last month. Lidl's sales were up by 15.4 per cent, as shopper numbers rose by 648,000, while Aldi added a sector-beating 732,000 new shoppers in the last 12 weeks.