Sainsbury’s has reported a 0.2% increase in like-for-like sales in the third quarter and claims it enjoyed its best ever Christmas in December 2013.
Total sales were up 2.7%, excluding fuel, with 28m customer transactions in the seven day run up to Christmas.
Justin King, chief executive, said: ”This quarter has been characterised by a very tough sales environment throughout October and November, with customers saving up in order to treat their families over the Christmas period. However, we saw strong sales in the key period over Christmas, helping record numbers of customers to Live Well for Less. Like-for-like sales excluding fuel of 0.2%, coupled with a strong contribution from new space, led to our best Christmas ever.”
Bryan Roberts, Kantar Retail’s director of retail insights, said: “The fact Sainsbury’s has posted an increase of only 0.2% in like-for-like sales is indicative of a slowdown by the retailer.
“In context of the likely performance of major competitors and against last year’s decent comparatives, however, this is another respectable showing from Sainsbury’s, reflecting its strong reputation in quality, service and affordability and growing credentials in multichannel.
“Although Sainsbury’s is among the better placed supermarkets to cope with whatever the market throws at it, we retain concerns that its profitability will come under mounting pressure in 2014.”
The seven days prior to Christmas was reported to be Sainsbury’s busiest ever trading week, with more than 28m transactions. Monday 23 December 2013 was the busiest day and saw its biggest trading hour, with customers spending nearly £17m.
Also on the 23 December, Stanway in Essex was the first ever Sainsbury’s store to take £1m in sales in one day.
Sainsbury’s said its convenience business is growing at nearly 18% and on Christmas Eve it had its biggest ever sales day at nearly £7m.
“This underscores how customers choose convenience stores to top-up their main supermarket shop, especially at the busiest times of the year,” said King.
Groceries online grew at over 10% during the quarter, and on 22 December 2013 enjoyed its strongest ever sales day, reaching over £5m. During the quarter Sainsbury’s launched a new groceries online website and introduced an online delivery pass, which more than 10,000 customers have purchased.
Sainsbury’s reported customers redeemed over £120m worth of Nectar points to help with the cost of their Christmas shop, a 9% increase year-on-year.
Own brand products sold well with Taste the Difference growing at over 10% and performing particularly well over the Christmas period, according to the retailer. Sainsbury’s said its Christmas food ordering service also did well with over 100,000 orders, up 24% year-on-year.
Sainsbury’s general merchandise and clothing business are reported to have achieved record levels of market share. Sainsbury’s said it is now the UK’s sixth largest retailer of homeware by value and the 11th largest retailer of clothing by value. This year saw growth of over 25% in tableware and nearly 30% in gifting.
During the quarter Sainsbury’s added over 555,000sq ft of new space; comprising six supermarkets, four extensions, and 19 convenience stores.
The retailer also refurbished five supermarkets and 11 convenience stores and said it was on-track to deliver a million sq ft of new space by the end of the year.
“As with last year, we expect customers to spend cautiously in the few months following Christmas, in an attempt to rebalance the household finances,” said King. “The general economic backdrop remains uncertain for many families, so helping them to Live Well for Less remains the key to continuing our market outperformance.”