Sustaining the discounters' godlike levels of growth - which saw Aldi's sales up 25% in 2008, while Lidl, Iceland, Farmfoods and others also enjoyed double-digit gains - was never going to happen.

And sure enough, last week, the latest TNS figures showed Aldi's growth rate slowing to 11.2%, with Lidl's down to a merely mortal 9.7%. The numbers were enough to outperform the big four, with Morrisons (up 7.9%) leading the pack. And Farmfoods' sales growth is still running at 18.7%.

But it was the first sign that all those price promotions, the remorseless advertising, greater focus on fresh produce prices, the adoption of more simple price points, and possibly - but only possibly - Tesco's new Discounter line, was finally closing the gap. Even the independents responded to the gauntlet that was thrown down partly by the recession, but also by the specific and immediate threat the discounters appeared to pose with their appeal to convenience shoppers.

And this week comes new research from Him! (see p4) showing the number of shoppers visiting a discounter has fallen from 15% to 13%. Has the novelty of visiting a discounter worn off? Is the discounter boom over?

It certainly appears to have peaked, with Aldi, Lidl and Netto's share dropping from a December high of 6.3% to 5.9% in March, before nudging up to 6.1% in May [TNS].

But the discounters are not going to go away. Aldi, for example, has set out to open a new store every week until it reaches 1,500. This week, Iceland announced plans to open new stores even faster - with 70 this year, though CEO Malcolm Walker concedes his store's format will reach its limit in two to three years (see p8).

If the trade thinks the threat of the discounters has receded, however, they are wrong. 'Britain's Biggest Poundshop' may indeed be Asda (see p4). But the discounters are here to stay.