Dave Lewis Tesco
Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis is looking at ways of improving the supermarket's fortunes Reuters

After posting the biggest loss in the supermarket's history in the year to Feburary 2015, Tesco today reported that declining sales are finally slowing down in the first quarter. Shares jumped by 3.1% as a result.

Dave Lewis, who was appointed as the company's chief executive in September 2014, was burdened with the task of turning the UK's biggest supermarket around and climbing back into the black.

"The focus remains very largely on Dave Lewis himself [in the AGM]," Ken Odeluga, senior analyst at City Index, told IBTimes UK. "A client recently asked me if he would be judged on his performance, but I think it is far too early. He has barely been in the job for like six months and if you take off from which we can say that he actually started to run the Tesco that he wanted to run, that was after the announcement of the annual loss, that is even less."

Odeluga added the coming trading updates are insufficient as indicators of the impact Lewis has had on the company. He said: "Maybe in six months, we could have a look at key sales, like UK sales from stores open more than a year."

As long as revenue does not fall too much more than the 1.3% reported in the quarter reported on 26 June, Lewis should be fine in the coming months, Odeluga said.

The £6.4bn (€9.03bn, $10.1bn) loss reported in April, down from a profit of £2.26bn in the year to February 2014, followed a "black hole" discovered in the company's profit of £263m. The accounting scandal was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and caused Tesco's share price to fall to approximately 165.75p, the lowest point in more than 10 years.

Tesco is also suffering from competition from budget supermarkets Aldi and Lidl in the UK, which have caused grocers to cut food prices significantly.

AGM questions

Lewis's first annual shareholding meeting, despite the company's precarious position, was filled with questions about the living wage. Charities such as the Living Wage Fund and ShareAction ramping up the pressure on Tesco's pay policies.

Matt Davis, director of communications and public engagement at ShareAction, told IBTimes UK: "Our view is that raising these issues at the AGMs of these companies, we have an opportunity to have the dialogue directly with the people who make the decision, so it is a David and Goliath setting."

The charity has been running a campaign aimed at getting all FTSE 100 companies to pay living wages to all their employees.

Davis said: "So far, roughly a quarter of the FTSE 100 companies have signed up, which is great, but it is time for some of the big household name retailers to show a lead on this issue too, and Tesco is one of those big names, of which most people would be surprised to hear they are not paying the living wage."

ShareAction has teamed up with investors who hold shares in big companies to urge FTSE 100 businesses to set the example when it comes to paying the living wage.

What about the future?

Regarding Tesco's future, Odeluga said: "Although [Lewis] has pledged to actually make a profit in 2015, you won't be seeing a very strong recovery in key sales growth this year. The pressure is off him to quite an extent.

"What we have is quite low expectations. It's not going to fall off a cliff, I don't think its financial position is going to deteriorate markedly and there is nothing that toxic on the balance sheet to bring that about."