Sainsbury’s has reported “strong” sales with underlying pretax profit up 6.6% to £354m, excluding gains on property sales.

Like-for-like sales including VAT but excluding fuel were up 1.9%

Total sales excluding VAT but including fuel were up 6.1% to £11.7m for the 28 Weeks to October 1.

Total sales including VAT but excluding fuel were up 4.3%.

Chief executive Justin King hailed £50m of cost savings made by the supermarket after it kept “a tight control on costs”.

Weekly transactions at Sainsbury’s are up almost 1 million on last year, to nearly 22 million and the company praised its Live Well for Less and Brand Match initiatives as it targets cash-strapped consumers.

King said: “Our further good sales growth reflects our continued hard work to help our customers cope with the tough economic environment. They are recognising the efforts we are making to help them manage their budgets and to ‘Live Well For Less’.

“We expect the economic environment to remain challenging for the foreseeable future but we are confident of further good progress in the Christmas period ahead and our ability to grow by continuing to do a great job in helping our customers ‘Live Well For Less’.”

Sainsbury’s said it has added 596,000sqft of new space to its estate, with seven new stores – including two replacements – 15 extensions and 37 convenience stores, creating over 2,700 new jobs in the process.

Panmure Gordon analyst Philip Dorgan said: “A decent set of numbers, but difficult to get excited about.

“Sainsbury is land-locked, with decent EBITDAR margins and forced to play the space race in order to generate growth, which will probably lag Morrison in terms of both earnings and dividend. We think that the shares are reasonable value, but rather lacking in the wow factor.”