Sainsburys reported "strong" third quarter

Sainsbury's reported "strong" third quarter

Sainsbury's said today (11 January) that its "best Christmas ever" had helped underlying sales climb over 2% in what the UK retailer described as a "strong" third quarter.

The company said its like-for-like sales excluding fuel increased 2.1% in the 14 weeks to 7 January. Including petrol sales, like-for-like grew 4.8%.

Total sales at the UK's third-largest grocer rose 7% - or by 4.5% excluding fuel.

Chief executive Justin King said Sainsbury's had enjoyed a "record-breaking Christmas" and pointed to a 10% increase in sales of the retailer's premium Taste The Difference own-label range. King also noted that sales of Sainsbury's entry-level private-label Basics range grew "strongly".

Sainsbury's is the latest UK food retailer to report on its Christmas trading this week. On Monday, Morrisons reported a 0.7% increase in like-for-like sales, excluding fuel and VAT, for the six weeks to 1 January.

Tomorrow, Tesco will provide an update on its Christmas trading, with analysts expecting Sainsbury's results to have outperformed its larger rival.

King said Sainsbury's Brand Match campaign, which compares prices with Tesco and Asda and which was launched in the wake of Tesco's Big Price Drop promotional overhaul in September, had been a "big hit" with customers. Sainsbury's plans to keep the Brand Match campaign this year.

The Sainsbury's chief said the short term outlook for UK consumers was "challenging" but he insisted "key events" in 2012, including the Olympic Games, provided "opportunities for growth".

Shares in Sainsbury's rose in early trading but were down 0.49% at 304.4p at 10:50 GMT.