Somerfield's new management team thinks it will take at least 18 months to turn round the ailing food retailer. Chief executive Alan Smith said: "We have disappointed customers and they have left us. It will take time to encourage them to try us again." As customers abandoned the stores, or spent less, like for likes at the group slumped by 7.6% in the year to April 29. The problem was most acute in Kwik Save fascia stores, but even Somerfield saw like for likes slide 1.8%. Overall sales were down 7% to £5.47bn. Pretax profit tumbled from £218m to £70.7m. After exceptionals, the company reported a loss of £14.5m. Smith and new chairman John von Spreckelsen have been sorting out the basics, such as tackling supply chain glitches, improving instore availability, refining promotional activity and raising staff morale in the hope this will improve service. Smith claims Somerfield is seeing signs it is not haemorrhaging sales as fast as it was. But the City remains unimpressed and shares slipped 2.5p to 57.5p on the day of the results. {{NEWS }}