News has taken a bit of a back seat in the past two weeks. Not at The Grocer, of course, where despite our interest in the Olympics, we have also reported on some important stories, like the rising price of wheat and corn (and, this week, tomatoes), Tesco’s new 25p energy drink, the retirement of Peter Marks, Tesco’s S&P downgrade, Wyke’s public battle with Morrisons over its delisting, Tesco’s shrinking supply base, Aldi’s expansion plans, the dairy farmer price wars, and the reduction in opening hours at 30 Fresh & Easy stores in the US. (Spot the recurring theme. And no, it’s not the Olympics.)

The story that shocked me most, however, surrounded this week’s Kantar Worldpanel numbers. A cursory glance at the 12-week trading figures suggests an encouraging pick-up in trade, coinciding with better weather and, possibly, the Olympics, while underlining the continuing success of Aldi, Asda, Sainsbury, and Waitrose. If you can afford it, however, the latest four-week data is well worth inspecting. It actually shows a reasonably significant slowdown in growth at Aldi, Asda and Sainsbury’s (while Waitrose’s sales accelerated away like a Millfield-educated Olympian).

“Like the improvement in this week’s jobless figures, no one was expecting the 5.1% increase in Tesco’s sales”

Adam Leyland, Editor

But a bit like the improvement in this week’s jobless figures, no one was expecting the 5.1% increase in Tesco’s sales. Sure, it’s been offering some eye-catching deals. And none more so than the recent 50p per litre fuel promotion. But that, to me, was symptomatic of how Tesco has unduly tested the loyalty and patience of its customers. And yes, summer has finally arrived, and the extra Sunday trading hours help, but those boosted trade for everyone.

So, could it be that the Tesco oil tanker has turned? Kantar notes that, at 13%, budget own label lines such as Tesco’s new Everyday Value range are performing more strongly than premium own label, down 4%. Since Tesco has a foot in both camps, that’s clearly not the whole story. But with the world’s attention diverted, Tesco has been working quietly and furiously to improve its in-store experience. As London 2012 finishes, the race to the Christmas finishing line has begun.