A senior manager at Sainsbury has been forced to apologise after labelling some of the retailer’s customers “pikeys”, a slang term for a gypsy or traveller.

Beauty trading manager at Sainsbury, Lisa Collins, made the reference a fortnight ago at an Institute of Grocery Distribution health and beauty event.

Collins had spoken about new in-store health and beauty departments at stores in Solihull and Leamington Spa. Following the success in these stores, she said the concept would now be expanded to other stores “or as we call - them our pikey customers”.

Sainsbury said the remark was “off-the-cuff” and that Collins was “deeply distressed”.