Sainsbury’s has reported a strong fourth quarter which contributed to a 1.8% rise in full-year like-for-likes, buoyed by a surge in own-brand sales.

Total sales in the 10 weeks to March 16 rose 6.3% excluding fuel. Full-year like-for-likes rose 1.8% excluding fuel and 1.1% excluding fuel and extensions.

Fourth-quarter like-for-likes excluding fuel rose 3.6% in stark contrast to rival Morrisons which last week reported a 4.1% plunge in fourth-quarter like-for-like sales.

Sainsbury’s weekly customer transactions increased by more than 800,000 year on year to 22.9 million per week.

Its relaunched By Sainsbury’s range grew 9% and chief executive Justin King said the retailer enjoyed “strong growth” in all of its own-brand lines.

The grocer’s convenience arm is growing at more than 18% year on year, driven by a combination of new space and strong like-for-like sales growth. It opened 87 new convenience stores last year.

Its online grocery business increased sales by nearly 20% and now regularly serves more than 190,000 customers a week.

Sainsbury’s said it enjoyed its “best-ever” January non-food Sale with sales up 19%, aided by a near 20% uplift in clothing sales and a 25% increase in homewares sales.

Nearly 33% of Sainsbury’s customers are now within a 15-minute drive of a full non-food offer, up from 29% this time last year.

King said: “We have delivered strong sales in the fourth quarter, increasing market share and outperforming in what remains a tough retail environment. Over the quarter, we grew customer transactions to 22.9 million per week, serving more customers than ever.

“Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day were both particularly strong this year.” 

He added: “Our focus on quality is an important reason why customers choose to shop with us, and why we are seeing strong growth in our own-brand products.

“We expect the challenging economic environment to continue through the coming year. By helping our customers to Live Well for Less through our ongoing commitment to great quality own-brand products, Brand Match, competitive pricing and targeted promotions via Nectar and coupon-at-till, we are well positioned to continue to outperform the market.”