Snow returned to Grocer Towers today, albeit briefly – but the chill that ran down many a back earlier this week had nothing to do with the mercury falling.

GDP shrank by 0.5% in the previous quarter, we learned on Tuesday, confounding predictions – or maybe they were just hopes – of a modest-sounding 0.4% improvement.

City reaction ran the gamut from “horrendous” to “disastrous”. And the Office for National Statistics says business would have been “flattish” even without the effects of the severe winter.

In a sense the dismal numbers only told us what we already knew – that times remain tough for suppliers, retailers and shoppers alike. But the news brings closer the spectre of the dreaded double-dip.

Asda added to the gloom today when its Income Tracker reported the biggest hit to family spending power in four years. The average family now has £8 less per week to spend than it did this time last year, when the UK had just recorded the first of four consecutive quarters of growth.

At least Andy Clarke could see a silver lining, insofar as he reckons thousands of extra shoppers have had the frighteners sufficiently put on them to try out the 10% price guarantee (despite Tesco's criticisms) after a slow start.

"The £8 a week drop in the Income Tracker is in part responsible for the huge uplift we've seen in people taking advantage of the Asda Price Guarantee,” he reasoned.

“Since the turn of the year we've seen a seven-fold increase in shoppers comparing the price of their groceries online. Our guarantee to be at least 10% cheaper than other supermarkets or we will refund the difference means we're helping British families out when they need it most.”

With unemployment up almost 50,000 in last week’s ONS figures, it’s no surprise more shoppers are finding the time to trawl through those receipts.

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