Asda has posted a return to like-for-like sales growth for the year to 31 December 2017, although annual operating profits dropped 13% as the retailer invested in lowering prices and improving fresh food availability.

Like-for-like sales in the period increased 0.5%, compared to a 5.7% decrease in 2016, while operating profit was in line with expectations at £735.4m in 2017 (compared to £845.3m in 2016).

The return to like-for-like sales growth was also driven by improving the range and quality of its own brand products and strategic investments in service, Asda said.

During 2017, Asda opened one new Home Shopping Centre, three new superstores and five new supermarkets, representing 146,000sq ft of new space.

Earlier this month, Asda reported its fourth consecutive quarter of growth with a 1.0% (Easter adjusted) increase in like-for-like sales during the first quarter of 2018.

Asda president and ceo, Roger Burnley, said: “Our 2017 accounts reflect a solid performance and a strong, well-managed business.

“During the year momentum returned driven by a series of planned investments in lowering prices, further improving quality and innovation in our own brand ranges and providing an even better shopping experience whether in store or online.

“Our customers have responded well to this strategy and the momentum of 2017 has continued into the first quarter of 2018.”