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Asda held its own after posting an increase in sales over the Christmas period, despite strong competition

Asda has reported its fourth consecutive increase in sales, although Walmart bosses said Britain’s third largest supermarket  “still had work to do” in the brutal price battle with discounters such as Aldi and Lidl.

Results from its parent company show from 1 October to 31 December like-for-like sales at Asda grew by 0.5% .

The results come six weeks into the reign of new CEO Roger Burnley, who said Asda’s improvements in availability, service and price had put it back on the right track and promised to do more to “act on the issues that matter to our customers.”

Among those priorities, as revealed by The Grocer last week, Asda is re-branding its price strategy under the banner Rolled back Staying Back.

Last month more than 1,000 everyday items were cut by up to 50% in price, which Asda claims has knocked £14 off the average basket price.

As well as investing in price reductions, in a bid to get closer to the discounters, Asda has also promised to do more to innovate in its own brand line up, with Burnley promising, it would be the other key theme alongside price.

The Grocer revealed last week Asda planned to step up its support for innovation among own label suppliers, including plans to launch a new Asda Innovation Awards programme and promising to match fund NPD by new suppliers who bring exclusive product development to Asda.

Former Sainsbury’s supply chain boss Burnley, who took the helm as Asda’s president and CEO in January, having been brought in as chief operating officer and deputy CEO in October 2016, stressed Asda’s strong performance over the Christmas period, which saw it become the only one of the big four to retain its market position.

“Our colleagues should be proud of this performance, which is testament to their hard work during the all-important Christmas trading period,” he said.

“Whilst Christmas seems a distant memory to them now – I’d like to thank them again for their hard work. Last year, we really improved our offer for customers – combining great product innovation with a focus on value and an easy shopping experience. “

Burnley said the improved performance saw more than 348,000 extra shoppers visit Asda stores in December

“Moving into 2018 we remain absolutely focused on doing the right things for our customers to accelerate our momentum and build trust,” he added. “Be that through an increased focus on Every Day Low Prices with the launch of Rolled Back Staying Back, continued innovation in our own brands, the way we make it easier for customers to shop with us or the way we support our communities.

“We’ve already made some really strong commitments to reduce our use of plastics and to support Fareshare and The Trussell Trust in our fight against food poverty – and we will continue to act on the issues that matter to our customers.”

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the results were a sign of Walmart’s investment in price and its stores starting to pay off.

“We’re pleased to see customers responding to our investments in the value proposition through improved in-store experience scores and the strengthening of our private brand and online grocery offerings. We know we have more work to do in the UK, however we are encouraged by recent results in key areas of our business.”

“We continue to make progress in this business, and we need to do even more to further enhance the value proposition,” added Brett Biggs, Walmart chief financial officer.