Sainsbury's enjoys Happy Christmas - just

Sainsbury's Q3 festive sales grew for the 35th quarter in succession - but only just, by a wafer-thin 0.2%.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 15 Jan 2014

The store - which recently regained the UK’s number two position behind Tesco - enjoyed its busiest ever week in the seven days before Christmas, recorded no fewer than 28m transactions. That’s an awful lot of turkey, mince pies and stuffing.

Furthermore, Dec 22nd was the stores’ busiest ever for internet sales, suggesting that online grocery shopping has really come of age. Its punters were obviously confident that what they ordered only 72hrs ahead of the big day was going to turn up in time.

Its convenience stores were the other big winners, with like for like sales up no less than 18% for the quarter. Further evidence that shopping habits are changing, with customers shunning the retail park sheds, doing their big shop online and topping up at the local High Street branch in between.

But the group remains cautious on 2014 prosepcts all the same, and has cut is earning forecast for the year from 1.5% to 'just under' 1%. Boss Justin King - voted Britain’s Most Admired Leader in MT’s latest Britain’ s Most Admired Companies poll - described sales as ‘strong’ in a ‘tough market’. And although like-for-like sales growth of 0.2% doesn’t seem like much, it is as King was quick to point out, better than the competition.

Or at least better than the rest of the big four, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons. But if you include the deep-discounters like Aldi and Lidl the picture isn’t so rosy. Yesterday both the German-owned stores independently announced ‘their best Christmas ever’ - although no figures were released, analysts reckon that means double-digit growth in both cases.

And although he may not mention them in public, you can bet that King (and Tesco’s Phil Clarke and the rest) is keeping a very close eye on these two new super cheap upstarts, with their low overheads and no costly online channel (yes, really) to service.

For if they keep growing at this pace, it won’t be long before King can no longer keep up his nifty trick of pretending to the world that Sainsbury’s doesn’t really compete with Aldi or Lidl. The Germans are coming…

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