Sainsbury’s has said like-for-like sales edged 0.1 per cent higher over its Christmas quarter, but warned the market remains “very competitive” and the impact of the pound on prices was “uncertain”.
The UK’s second biggest supermarket chain said it delivered a “good” Christmas performance in the 15 weeks to January 7, while robust Black Friday trading helped its recent Argos acquisition notch up a 4 per cent hike in like-for-like sales.
Mike Coupe, group chief executive, said: “The market remains very competitive and the impact of the devaluation of sterling remains uncertain.
“However, we are well placed to navigate the external environment and remain focused on delivering our strategy.”
Sainsbury’s performance sees the chain left in the shade by smaller rival Morrisons, which hailed its best Christmas for seven years on Tuesday after sales surged by 2.9% over the nine weeks to January 1.
But for Sainsbury’s, it marked its first like-for-like growth in a year and comes as retail experts said the entire sector enjoyed a solid Christmas.
Mr Coupe said the supermarket had record trading during the Christmas week, with more than 30 million customer transactions and over £1bn of sales across the group.
Combined sales across both the supermarket and Argos were 1 per cent higher excluding fuel.
Mr Coupe said the Argos sales growth and trading boost seen in combined superstores “reinforced the case” for the acquisition.
Sainsbury’s snapped up Argos owner Home Retail Group last year in a £1.4m deal.
The group said it shifted 500,000 parcels since September and 55,000 in the Christmas week alone as it increased Argos orders online.
Phil Dorrell, partner at retail consultants Retail Remedy, said: “Sainsbury’s all but flat Christmas is only overshadowed by what is expected from Asda. ‘Not as bad as it could have been’ is not a strong position to be in.
“Sainsburys may now be regretting their decision to virtually eliminate multibuy promotions, proving too aggressive on the sales line at this high-volume and highly competitive time of year.
“While David Potts this week celebrates finding Morrison’s mojo, Mike Coupe is left wondering if Sainsbury’s mojo was left behind with the promotional calendar.”