UK supermarket group J Sainsbury has said second-quarter like-for-like sales rose 2.8% excluding petrol, as recovery plans for the business continued on track.

In its pre-close second-quarter trading statement, comprising 15 weeks actual sales and estimated sales for the final week to 8 October 2005, the company said total sales rose 6.6%, or 5.4% excluding petrol. Like-for-like sales including petrol were up 4.1%. Sainsbury’s said customers were benefiting from continuing improvement in product availability and price position.

“Like-for-like sales (excluding petrol) of 2.8% reflect a good sales performance during a challenging period for the retail sector and we have grown our market share. Our plans for the recovery of our business are on track,” said chief executive Justin King.

“There was 1.7% deflation in grocery, driven by our continued investment in the customer offer. Strong inflation in petrol resulted in total inflation of 0.9% for the quarter. As previously stated we will continue to invest in both price and quality and in our store execution to improve our customer offer. Our sales momentum supports this investment as well as the external cost pressures which are generally being reported by retailers,” King added.

The company said that customers are noticing the difference in its stores, particularly in pricing, availability and service, but there is still much to do.

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“Looking forward we expect the market to remain highly competitive for the rest of the year but our priority remains to invest in the customer offer to maintain market levels of sales growth,” King said.

The latest TNS grocery market share figures for the 12 weeks to 11 September 2005 showed growth of 5% for Sainsbury’s, outpacing the market and lifting its market share to 15.7%, up from 15.3% a year ago.