The City was unmoved by Sainsbury's full-year figures - with the retailer's share price edging up just 3/4p yesterday.

Many analysts felt that the group had been lucky to avoid announcing its first ever loss when it unveiled a pre-tax profit of £15m for the year, down from £610m in 2004.

Analysts also say that problems at Morrisons and the slowdown at Asda have helped Sainsbury.

Sainsbury said that like-for like sales, excluding petrol, in Sainsbury’s supermarkets business slipped 0.4% for the year, but increased by 1.7% in the final quarter of 2004. Total group sales were up 5.5% to £16,364m.

Meanwhile, Sainsbury has said that it will be launching a programme to recruit up to 10,000 workers over the age of 50 to improve customer service in stores.