Supermarket group Sainsbury’s generated a surge in first-half earnings on the back of “universal customer appeal”, chief executive Justin King has said.

The grocer posted a 13.3 per cent rise in underlying pre-tax profit to£272 million, on sales ahead 7.6 per cent to£10.76 billion, in the 28 weeks to October 4.

Like-for-like sales excluding fuel were ahead 3.9 per cent.

Sainsbury’s is now ringing up 18 million customer transactions a week as it exploits its reputation for quality, its ethical business positioning and value credentials.

King said: “Our universal customer appeal has been fundamental to our sustained performance and we have continued to invest in both product quality and competitive pricing.”

He said that consumers’ shopping patterns have changed as the global economic turmoil has unfolded, but that Sainsbury’s remains well-positioned.

King said: “Getting the best value for money is even more important to consumers when household budgets are stretched. Customers are now buying a different mix of products and we have successfully developed our offer to offset the rising cost of living and tighter household budgets.”

More convenience stores planned

The grocer now intends to accelerate the growth of its convenience business following a review.

Fifty new convenience stores are planned in the next financial year and another 100 the following year.