Sainsbury’s fourth quarter like-for-like sales grew 1% excluding fuel in the 10 weeks to March 19.

The grocer’s chief executive Justin King said the like-for-like performance meant Sainsbury’s had outperformed the market, but he remained cautious on the outlook.

Like-for-likes increased 4.2% including fuel.

Like-for-likes grew 2.3% excluding fuel for the full year, and 4.7% including fuel.

Total sales in the fourth quarter rose 3.5% excluding fuel, rising 6.8% including fuel, which King said reflected the fact customers were responding to its “competitive” fuel prices.

Sainsbury’s non-food sales grew at more than three times the rate of its food sales, said King.

Online sales surged more than 20% year-on-year in the quarter. 

The grocer opened 193,000 sq ft of new space in the quarter, comprising three new supermarkets, one extension and 21 convenience stores. 

King said: “In a tough consumer environment our focus on delivering universal customer appeal and our multi-channel and space growth strategy has attracted a record 21 million customers to our stores each week, up 1 million on last year.

“We expect the consumer environment to remain tough, with our customers facing fuel price inflation, uncertain employment prospects and government spending cuts.

“We have demonstrated our ability to perform well in these conditions and are confident that our growth plans and universal customer appeal, supported by Nectar and coupon at till, mean we are well-positioned for further growth in 2011/12.”