J Sainsbury was the second supermarket chain in as many days to report a rise in trading in during the seasonal period, revealing a record Christmas week "driven by excellent operations across the group".
The company said total retail sales in the 15 weeks to 6 January were up 1.2% excluding sales of fuel, while like-for-like sales - turnover in stores open at least a year, where comparable figures are available - were up 1.1% excluding fuel.
In its trading statement for its third quarter, Sainsbury highlighted:
- Grocery sales grew 2.3% with Groceries Online up 8.2% and Convenience up 7.3%
- General Merchandise and Clothing outperformed the market in challenging conditions
- Full-year underlying profit before tax now expected to be moderately ahead of published consensus
The company said it remained cautious about the consumer environment in the year ahead, but raised its year-ahead profit guidance.
It now expects underlying earnings in the range of £80m-£85m, ahead of its previous guidance of £65m, thanks in part to synergies achieved from its acquisition of Argos.
Mike Coupe, chief executive, said: "We're pleased with our performance across the Group this quarter. We had a strong Christmas week, with record sales, over 340,000 online grocery orders and stellar growth in Argos Fast Track delivery and collection.
"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."
Investors welcomed the positive statement and shares in Sainsbury rose 2.43% to 252.87p in opening trade on the London Stock Exchange.
Morrisons, Sainsbury's rival which reported similar seasonal trading growth on Tuesday, eased 0.13% after rallying strongly in the previous session.
Picture courtesy of Sainsbury website