Total sales, excluding fuel, were up 0.8% in the 15 weeks to January 7, compared with the same period last year. Like-for-like sales were up by 0.1%. Online groceries sales climbed by 9% over the period.
Group chief executive Mike Coupe said Sainsbury had improved the quality of its food offer.
“Sainsbury offered customers greater quality food, choice and value than ever before, across all channels,” Coupe said. “We had a record Christmas week, with over 30M customer transactions at Sainsbury’s and over £1bn of sales across the group.
‘Greater quality food, choice and value’
“Our Groceries Online and Convenience channels performed well, achieving over 9% and 6% sales growth respectively. Online sales made up 18% of total group sales in the quarter.”
Customers paid 14% less, on average, for a Christmas basket than they did two years ago, the supermarket claimed.
A quarter of Sainsbury’s own-label food was either new or improved for the Christmas period. Its Taste the Difference party food range was said to have achieved a 50% sales boost year-on-year.
A net total of two new Sainsbury supermarkets were opened over the quarter. A net 13 new convenience stores were opened over the same period.
The retail market was still very competitive, Coupe claimed, despite nationwide uncertainty about the devaluation of the pound. Sainsbury was well placed to navigate the uncertainty, and remained focused on delivering its strategy, he added. Sterling has been falling in value against the euro and the dollar since the Brexit vote.
Meanwhile, Morrisons and Lidl reported similar sales boosts’ over the festive period. Morrisons’ like-for-like sales were up 2.9% in the nine weeks to January 1, as it reported its strongest sales performance for seven years.
Lidl’s festive sales were up 10% year-on-year in its most successful Christmas trading period ever.
What the analysts said about Sainsbury’s results
• Money.co.uk, Martin Lane: “. By investing heavily in online the supermarket giant is killing it. They are a brand that clearly recognise consumers’ needs and understand that digital is where it’s at.”
• Verdict Retail senior analyst David Alexander: “The Sainsbury’s board will be toasting the New Year with some renewed optimism, following a Christmas period that surpassed expectations.
“Perhaps the resurgence of the Big Four, supported by a remarkable turnaround in Morrisons’ fortunes under Dave Potts and a spirited fightback at Tesco (for which, expectations for tomorrow’s Christmas release have now gone up even further), is a sign that the mainstream grocery players are finally stemming the tide of the discounters? Well, that is a conclusion that is difficult to support given a record Christmas at Aldi, where a 15% sales increase over December is beyond the wildest dreams of the major grocers.”