Pricing will be the key battleground for King this year
Sainsbury's third-quarter report for the 12 weeks to January 1 makes for poor reading if revenues for petrol sales are excluded. The grocer managed to grow sales by 2.7 per cent over the period leading up to Christmas, excluding forecourt sales. Like-for-like sales were down by 0.4 per cent, after petrol sales are taken away.

However, chief executive Justin King was upbeat about the results, saying the figures were in line with the retailer's plans and that it was on the road to recovery. He said: 'We are particularly pleased with the levels of availability and customer service achieved over the Christmas period. The market was very competitive and early indications are that the fourth quarter will be challenging, with renewed pricing activity. Since this time last year, we have lowered the prices of 6,000 products.'