Supermarket chain Sainsbury's rounded off a three-year improvement plan today by announcing sales figures at the top end of expectations.
The group's like-for-like sales in the 12 weeks to March 22 were up 4.1% on a year earlier and ahead of the 3.7% forecast in the City.
The performance represented the chain's 13th consecutive quarter of growth and came at the end of its "Making Sainsbury's Great Again" programme, which was established in March 2005.
The plan has delivered £2.7 billion of sales growth in the three-year period, compared with original hopes for a £2.5 billion improvement.
Chief executive Justin King said: "This is an outstanding success and I would like to thank and congratulate all 150,000 Sainsbury's colleagues for the part they played in achieving this."
Mr King described the current market as competitive, but said improvements made to date positioned the chain well to "meet the demands of what continues to be a challenging environment"
Today's fourth quarter performance left Sainsbury's with like-for-like sales growth of 3.9% for the whole of its financial year to the end of March.
Analysts at Dresdner Kleinwort have pencilled in pre-tax profits of £480 million for the year, a far cry from the first-ever loss made by the business in 2004. The deficit led to the appointment of Mr King, who has since revived the business with a renewed focus on product availability and customer service.
Despite the steady sales performance, shares have fallen 20% this year amid concerns about trading conditions and competition from a resurgent Morrisons.
Investors have also been coming to terms with the failure of a £10.6 billion Qatari-backed takeover approach last year.
Meanwhile, the company announced plans for further growth today by revealing it would invest £273 million to create a 50-50 joint venture with property firm British Land.
The deal covers 39 retail sites with a value of £1.2 billion and will allow Sainsbury's to carry out extensions and other development opportunities.