The UK’s fourth-largest supermarket group, Safeway, has reported overall first-half like-for-like sales growth of 1.9%.

The company said that the transformation of Safeway, through the rollout of new formats and ranges, had made steady progress in the first half.

Safeway also reformatted a further 40 stores, at a significantly lower average cost than those last year, and it has successfully launched its four second-generation megastores.

The sales performance of the reformatted stores has continued to be strong.

Safeway said that it was pleased with customer response to the 900 new products launched so far this year, many of them in fresh categories. Sales of chilled ready meals, for example, have increased by 28% this year.

During the first phase of the strategy, the company’s successful promotional flyer campaign delivered an additional 1.5m customers, which it has retained.

The focus now, as the company implements the second phase of its strategy, is on increasing average customer spend by continuing the rollout of its innovative store formats and driving further improvements to product ranges.

Incremental investment in the second quarter has therefore been directed toward achieving higher, more profitable customer spending, rather than additional customer numbers.

The sales results underlined the poor performance of Safeway compared to sector rivals such as Tesco, which recently reported a 3.9% first-half sales growth.

Safeway also reported like-for-like sales growth of 1.1% in the 16 weeks to 12 October, compared with 2.4% growth in the same period by Britain’s second-largest supermarket chain J Sainsbury, reported Reuters.