UK supermarket J Sainsbury plc today (Thursday) said sales in the fourth quarter which ends on March 26 are up 7.2% with sales for the year as a whole up 5.0%. Like for like sales excluding petrol were up 1.7% for the fourth quarter and down 0.4% for the year.

The figures were reported in Sainsbury’s pre-close trading statement and include actual figures for the 11 weeks to 19 March and an estimate for week to 26 March. Sainsbury’s preliminary results for the year ended 26 March 2005 wil be out on 18 May.

“We are pleased with the quarter four sales numbers reported today which continue to show an improving trend,” said Justin King, chief executive.

“The competitive environment continues to be fierce but we are committed to ensuring that our customer offer is not compromised while we continue with our plans,” he said. “In these circumstances we are particularly pleased that we have seen an improving trend in sales. The outlook remains competitive but we are confident that by continuing to do a better job for our customers every day we will reach our objective of market levels of sales growth by the end of 2005/06.”

“Overall we are pleased with our progress during the quarter,” he said. “However we are still only six months into implementing the plans we outlined last October. We recognise that there is a long way to go and must continue to be realistic about the task in hand.”