• Sainsbury’s like-for-likes fall 0.4% during third quarter
  • But bosses hail growth in volumes and transactions during the period
  • Comes after Morrisons reported a 0.2% uplift in like-for-like sales yesterday
  • Sainsbury’s details reasons for Home Retail Group interest but no indication on whether formal bid will be tabled 

Sainsbury’s suffered a 0.4% dip in third quarter like-for-like sales, but hailed volume and transaction growth in a “highly competitive” market.

The supermarket giant said total retail sales during the 15 weeks to January 9 were up 0.8% excluding fuel, despite the drop in like-for-like sales.

It said more than 30 million transactions took place in the seven days ahead of Christmas, up 2.6% year on year.

But the spike in shopper numbers couldn’t prevent the fall in like-for-likes, which fell 1.8% including fuel.

Sainsbury’s had been expected to be the best performing member of the big four grocers over Christmas, but has been out-done by Morrisons. The UK’s fourth largest grocer reported a 0.2% uplift in like-for-like sales during the nine weeks to January 3, beating City forecasts. Tesco is poised to report its Christmas trading update tomorrow.

Sainsbury’s said it scaled back on vouchering and promotional participation year on year and reduced the number of multi-buy deals on offer, in favour of investing into everyday low prices.

It added that its general merchandise division achieved “good sales growth” of 5% during the quarter, with 6% growth in it Tu clothing business.

The supermarket giant’s trading statement made no further comment on whether it would return with a formal bid for Home Retail Group.

Sainsbury’s sensationally revealed last week that it had failed in a bid to acquire the Argos and Homebase owner in November and has until February 2 to submit any intention to make an improved offer.

Boss Mike Coupe said: “We have traded well during the festive period in a highly competitive market. Our stores delivered excellent levels of service and availability and we launched several new seasonal products and range improvements. As a result we have seen our market share grow in the quarter.

“We reduced our levels of vouchering and promotional participation year on year. We also reduced the number of multi-buys in favour of lower regular prices, continuing our commitment to simplify prices and promotions. Our continued investment in quality, price and service drove like-for-like transaction and volume growth year on year.”

Sainsbury’s opened 16 new c-stores during the quarter and had its biggest ever day for convenience sales on Christmas Eve. Online grocery sales grew almost 10% during the period as the number of orders surged 15%. In a record week for its ecommerce proposition, Sainsbury’s delivered 289,000 orders.

Coupe added: “Given our good performance in this quarter, we now expect our like-for-like sales in the second half of the year to be better than the first. Food deflation and pressures on pricing will ensure that the market remains challenging for the foreseeable future.

“We will continue to remain competitive on price and our performance this quarter provides further evidence that our strategy is working.”