Sainsbury's confirmed today (8 January) that it would look to create around 2,000 jobs in the next year after revealing its recent sales growth had continued during the autumn and Christmas.

The UK retailer this morning injected a note of optimism into the country's retail sector with news that third-quarter like-for-like sales were up 4.5%, excluding fuel. Total sales rose 4.8% during the 13 weeks to 3 January.

Sainsbury's refused to be drawn on which type of posts would be created within the company but reaffirmed its ambition of building its convenience store network.

"Sainsbury's has stated that it wants to grow the convenience part of its business," a spokesperson told just-food.

At the time of its interim results in October, Sainsbury's said it wanted to open 50 more convenience stores in the 2009/10 period and a further 100 outlets the following year. As of 4 October, Sainsbury's convenience estate numbered some 276 stores.

The buoyant news from Sainsbury's came despite concerns over consumer spending amid the economic downturn in the UK and followed yesterday's disappointing numbers from upmarket rival Marks and Spencer.

Chief executive Justin King said Sainsbury's had shown it could meet "rapidly changing consumer needs" in the UK.

"Sainsbury's offers great quality products at fair prices and appeals to the full range of customer needs and budgets," King said.

Sainsbury's, King said, enjoyed its "best-ever Christmas performance" in 2008, including its busiest trading day on 23 December.

Moreover, in a further sign that UK consumers are seeking greater value from the country's food retailers, Sainsbury's said its cut-price Basics range had been its fastest-growing line, with sales up 40% on the year.

The Sainsbury's spokesperson refused to comment on whether the success of the Basics range had weighed on the retailer's margins.

The spokesperson was also tight-lipped over the performance of the company's upmarket Taste The Difference range as a whole, although he revealed cava sales rose 50% and Irish cream liqueur sales climbed 60% over Christmas.

Shares in Sainsbury's were up 0.3% to 323.75p at 12:26 GMT this afternoon.