Revamp behind boost in figures at Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s has hailed its best supermarket sales for years thanks to a revamp of its ranges and deals on popular summer food such as British strawberries.

The supermarket giant said like-for-like retail sales including the recently-bought Argos chain rose 2.3% in its first quarter as it launched 430 new or improved food products, including 250 summer lines.

Sales were boosted by rising inflation, as well as the later timing of Easter and Mother’s Day, but the group said it also rung up a 1.9% rise in the number of transactions at its tills.

The sales hike came as a marked bounce back on the 0.3% growth seen the previous quarter as Sainsbury’s cheered a rebound in total grocery sales, which leapt 3% higher.

This offset a slowdown in general merchandise sales - including Argos - to 1% from 1.5% the previous quarter amid an overhaul following last year’s £1.4 billion takeover of Home Retail Group.

Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury’s, said it was the group’s “best performance for a number of years”.

He said the firm had worked hard with suppliers to keep a lid on prices for summer staples such as strawberries and Jersey Royal potatoes.

He added: “The market is competitive and we continue to manage cost price pressures closely.”

The chain’s boss remained tight-lipped on reports Sainsbury’s is now looking to buy Nisa, the network of more than 2,500 independently-owned convenience stores.

It is understood Sainsbury’s met with senior executives from convenience chain McColl’s, which is supplied by Nisa, as it attempts to seal the deal in a response to Tesco’s £3.7 billion merger with wholesaler Booker.