Sainsbury’s sales turn out better than feared

Sainsbury’s posted its first sales decline over the key Christmas period for a decade but the figures were not as bad as had been feared.

Like-for-like sales for the 14 weeks to January 3 fell by 1.7 per cent, an improvement on the 2.8 per cent dip seen in Q2 and a better performance than analysts expected.

It was the fourth successive quarter of decline and the first time Sainsbury’s has reported a fall over its third quarter, which includes the festive period, since 2005.

Chief executive Mike Coupe warned of a “challenging” outlook to come as food prices continue to fall in the supermarket price war - with the top four grocers squeezed by Aldi and Lidl.

In November he warned that like-for-like sales were expected to be negative for the next few years.

Signs that the firm was starting to staunch the decline helped shares climb initially by as much as four per cent as well as providing a boost to fellow retailers M&S and Tesco due to report today.