Morrisons yesterday unveiled a 1% dip in like-for-like sales (LFLs) yesterday – describing its first-quarter performance as “satisfactory”.

It was the company’s first decline in LFLs since 2004, when it acquired rival Safeway

In an interim management statement, it also revealed total sales, excluding fuel, had increased slightly by 1.5%.

The company said the economic environment remained “challenging” for consumers and added: “Against this backdrop, we have continued to keep prices low for our customers without compromising on Morrisons’ quality.”

It continued: “The uncertain economic background is expected to remain challenging for the consumer and, accordingly, the board remains cautious. Our performance in the first quarter was broadly in line with our expectations and our financial outlook for the year remains unchanged.”

John Ibbotson, director of the retail consultancy Retail Vision, said the middle level of the supermarket scene had turned into a “battleground”.

He added: “On the evidence of these figures, Morrisons is under attack. While players at the top and bottom ends of the market – like Waitrose and Lidl – are thriving, the big beasts in the middle are fighting ever harder for a share of a shrinking market.”