Sainsbury's, the UK retailer, this morning (8 January) hailed its "best ever" Christmas after posting a 4.5% rise in third-quarter like-for-like sales.

The company, the UK's third-largest grocer, said like-for-like sales excluding fuel rose 4.5% during the 13 weeks to 3 January. Total sales were up 4.8%.

The buoyant results come despite concerns over consumer spending amid the economic downturn in the UK and follow 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.

King admitted the UK economy remained "particularly challenging" and warned Sainsbury's expects this to continue in 2009.

"However our continued investment in price and promotions along with universal appeal and a wide customer base means we are well positioned to continue our good progress," he added.

According to figures from industry analysts TNS, Sainsbury's share of the UK grocery market stood at 16% during the 12 weeks to 30 November.

Sainsbury's shares rose as the market opened this morning but had dipped 1.6% to 317.50p at 09:11 GMT.