Rarely has one retailer had such a tempestuous year as Kwik Save. Since the Back to The Future Consortium bought 171 stores from Somerfield in February, two MDs have gone. Paul Niklas, former MD of Formica UK, left in June, while Andrew Villars, former head of The Drinks Group, joined in July and was gone by October.

But the biggest saga was revealed by The Grocer in July. Visits to six stores found poor availability in basics including tobacco and bread, according to a survey by Storecheck Marketing. The company's store managers pointed the finger of blame at a drastic reduction in range following the takeover.

Villars held his hands up and vowed to begin turning the situation around.

A follow-up Storecheck survey showed that availability had indeed improved, but not in time to save Villars.

If his departure was a surprise, the purchase of 45 more stores and the clinching of a £30m refinancing package puzzled observers further. Last month, new evidence from The Grocer 33 shoppers visiting three stores indicated some improvement in availability and breadth of range, representing a ray of hope as Christmas approached.

However, store managers were still expressing concerns about availablity and plummeting sales have seen market share fall to 0.2% (from 1.6%).

And there were fresh rumours the chain might be taken over again - by a mystery group investing a further £30m.

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