Christmas sales rise triggers Sainsbury's profit boost

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United Kingdom supermarket Sainsbury's has reported impressive online grocery sales and a "stellar growth in Argos Fast Track delivery and collection" in its third quarter trading statement.

It appeared to mirror a trend across the sector for squeezed households to focus on essentials such as food while cutting back on presents and other non-food items.

Total retail sales for Sainsbury's in the 15 weeks to January 6 were up 1.2%, excluding fuel, and rose 1.1% on a like-for-like basis.

Upgraded synergies from the Argos integration mean the group expects underlying pre-tax profits to come in moderately above company-complied consensus of £559m.

Sainsbury's, which extended its product range when it bought toys and electricals retailer Argos for 1.1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) in 2016, indicated that trend would continue this year.

Sainsbury's did not break down the separate like-for-like sales performances of its supermarket and Argos businesses.

Grocery sales rose 2.3% year-on-year, with Groceries Online rising 8.2% and Convenience sales up 7.3%.

Lidl said on Wednesday that it had enjoyed another record December, with sales up 16% on the same period past year though the fast-expanding chain did not publish a like-for-like comparison based on the stores that were already open in 2016.

Mr Coupe said the company was pleased with the performance, adding it saw a boost from both its premium lines and cut-price offers.

Mr Coupe also said that the latter two categories grew market share "in a challenging market".

On Tuesday Britain's fourth ranked supermarket chain Morrisons beat Christmas sales growth forecasts while industry data indicated market leader Tesco outperformed its listed rivals during the festive quarter.

Parent group Sainsbury said in a trading statement, that the services were particularly popular during Black Friday and the last few days leading up to Christmas. Friday 22 was our biggest sales day for stores and we also delivered an online grocery order to customers every second.

"We delivered an excellent operational performance across the Group, with great availability, strong customer satisfaction scores and our lowest level of waste ever at Christmas", said Mike Coupe, Sainsbury's CEO.

The supermarket's Taste the Difference range performed particularly well, with customers buying more food from the premium range than a year ago.

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