Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco’s chief executive, blamed the supermarket group’s weakest underlying sales performance in seven years on bad summer weather. Financial Times. The Times

He said the sales slowdown ‘that could have indicated something about consumers, was all about the weather. Going on from June and July we have seen very good like-for-like sales, so that gives nice ground for going into autumn’.

However, all eyes are now on Leahy’s US expansion. He said that Tesco would open its first ‘Fresh & Easy’ stores in the US on about 8 November.

The UK chain is betting its reputation - and £250m a year of capital expenditure - on cracking the world’s biggest retail market.

Tesco plans 50 stores in California this year and will add another 200 by the end of next year.

Leahy said of the format: ‘Wal-Mart has announced a research team to look at smaller stores. Trader Joe’s has done a little bit of marketing about extra ranges. Safeway has said they are watching it and don’t think it will be successful – and if it is successful, they will copy it.

‘I think they think we don’t understand the market so I think they assume we won’t be a threat in their market as we have been in other markets.’