An orange Christmas for Sainsbury's

IT was an orange Christmas in the grocery sector after Sainsbury's trumped its top four rivals to take top spot, according to a market research company.

Sales at the supermarkets rose 6.9 per cent year-on-year in December as a late surge in spending made up for a snow-disrupted start, with Sainsbury's performing best, Nielsen said. It added that sales for the week ending December 25 soared 16 per cent to a record 3.36bn, helped by higher prices.

The figures could bolster confidence ahead of sales updates next week from Sainsbury and rivals Tesco and Bradford-based Morrisons after several retailers reported this week a hit to sales from bad weather.

"A pretty strong performance and should bode well for the trading updates due next week," said RBS analyst Justin Scarborough.

Nielsen said Sainsbury posted a 10.1 per cent increase in sales in the four weeks to December 25, while Tesco and Morrison grew in line with the market and Leeds-based Asda was just behind.