The major multiples are still experiencing strong sales growth despite warnings of an imminent slowdown. Sainsbury and Safeway have issued upbeat trading statements. And speaking at a food retail conference organised by Schroder Salomon Smith Barney, Tesco finance director Andrew Higginson said trade was still pretty good in the UK grocery market. He also felt the UK fundamentals remained strong, but added: "We will feel the chill. It's just a question of when and how bad it gets. His comments came a few days before Sainsbury's upbeat second quarter trading statement. which got a mixed reception in the City, as analysts questioned its claims to be "exceeding industry averages" for the 16 weeks to October 13. Several analysts pointed out the 6% like-for-like sales reported by Sainsbury did not include petrol sales, which would bring the figure closer to 5.3% ­ well below the underlying growth achieved at Morrisons and Tesco. Total sales were up 7.7%. Shaw's performance in the US was widely praised, although the UK figures were "more a reflection of the strong industry than a recovery at Sainsbury," said one analyst. Chief executive Sir Peter Davis said the figures proved the recovery strategy was working: "Our success in growing sales volumes shows that our First for Food' strategy is working. Availability has increased, queues are reduced, and customer numbers continue to grow." In its second quarter trading statement, Safeway reported like-for-like sales growth of 5.4%, a slight decline on its first quarter's growth of 6.1%, and giving a half-year figure of 5.7%. Safeway stressed its 5.4% figure included petrol sales. One analyst said: "Their like-for-like was a bit better than Sainsbury, which is good, particularly if you look at how they were trading last year. And Safeway was facing much tougher competition." Analyst Dave Stoddart of Teather and Greenwood agreed it was looking good for Safeway: "It's the eighth consecutive quarter with this kind of growth." {{NEWS }}