Sainsbury's has overcome its traditional Achilles' heel, boosting its availability from 96.3% to 98.2% and leaping from last place, in The Grocer 33 half-year review last year, to first.

"This is great news," said Sainsbury's director of retail and logistics Roger Burnley. "The Grocer 33 is an industry measure that anyone in retail would be lying if they said they didn't follow closely.

"Availability is a huge issue for shoppers. A loyal customer may forgive a single bad shop, but in this environment savvy shoppers trying new outlets may not forgive even that."

Sainsbury's had achieved its improvements through changes to its logistics network, in-store modifications and new supply management processes and technology, which had reduced the lead times on ordering fast-moving fresh food by 24 hours.

The new IT system was only partially in place, Burnley added, so he was hopeful of further improvements next year.

Availability fell at all four of Sainsbury's G33 rivals against last year, as volatile summer weather and changing consumer demand in the downturn added to the challenge. Morrisons slipped to second place with 97.8% of items in stock, Waitrose held on to third with 97% while Asda fell from second to fourth with 96.9%. Tesco was in last place with 96.3% availability.

Asda remained the retailer with the lowest average basket price and most weekly pricing wins, grabbing the cheapest retailer title 18 weeks out of 28, though Morrisons narrowed the price gap. Waitrose had the most service wins, picking up the top store of the week award eight times since June.

The Grocer 33 Review p18