Somerfield's shares hit 93p on the day it revealed weekly sales had stabilised ­ their highest level since the end of 1999. The rise came in spite of the fact Somerfield slipped into the red in the six months to November 11. The troubled retail group made an operating loss of £13.4m ­ compared with a profit of £82.7m the previous year. Like for like sales were down 5.3% in Somerfield stores and down 11.1% in Kwik Save during the period. But investors were cheered by news that comparable sales in Somerfield were up 0.3% in the first eight weeks of the second half, and down just 3.2% in Kwik Save. Chief executive Alan Smith said: "There's evidence that the business is beginning to turn round and is responding to treatment. "We are beginning to get basic elements of retailing right ­ such as product availability, service at checkouts and our pretty aggressive promotional programme." He added: "We have got to do more of the same for a long time, but are confident enough to consider how we might invest in the next financial year in store refits and new formats." The priority, said Smith, was to continue rebuilding sales growth which would return Somerfield to profitability. But Somerfield's bosses are damping down expectations of a speedy recovery of the business, saying the process could take between three and five years. {{NEWS }}