SUPERMARKET firm Sainsbury’s posted a 1.7% rise in fourth quarter sales as growth continued to slow – but said the result capped a “strong year” for the retailer.
The UK’s third biggest grocery chain, which has stores at Market Street and Shore Head in Huddersfield, saw like-for-like sales growth excluding fuel in the 11 weeks to March 20 drop from 3.7% the previous quarter as it came up against tough comparatives from a year earlier.
Full-year same store sales rose by 4.3%, but the group warned the consumer spending environment would remain challenging over the year ahead.
Sainsbury’s has reported slowing sales growth since the first quarter of 2009 amid easing food price inflation and cautious consumer spending. It lifted sales by 6.2% a year ago.
Analysts had expected the fourth quarter to be tougher for Sainsbury’s and for the supermarket sector following adverse weather in January and a clampdown on spending after Christmas.
It is thought that consumers have also been cutting back in the run-up to the general election and expected tax hikes – while Sainsbury’s has also faced increased competition from a resurgent Waitrose.
Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury’s, said: “While we expect the consumer environment to remain challenging in 2010, our universal customer appeal together with our accelerated growth of space for new supermarkets, extensions and convenience stores means we are well placed to make continued good progress in the new financial year.”
Sales in the group’s online offering rose 15%, while it confirmed further growth for its non-food ranges – at three times the rate of food, according to the firm.
Childrenswear has become a “rising star” for the firm after a good January sale for its non-food products.
The group said it was on track with plans to expand store space by 15% by March 2011, which is creating 13,000 extra jobs.