Sainsbury's colney hatch 2

Sainsbury’s has posted a 1.7% decline in like-for-like sales (excluding fuel) for the third quarter to 4 January.

Describing the market as “tough” Sainsbury’s also revealed total sales during the quarter were down 0.4% excluding fuel. The retailer said it racked up more than 29.5 million customer transactions in the seven days before Christmas.

Sales of its premium Taste the Difference range grew 5% year-on-year with sales of Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco up more than 30%, in line with other retailers reporting a bumper Christmas for Prosecco sales. It also sold more than 57 million mince pies and over 550,000 turkeys, up 8% year-on-year.

“Sainsbury’s has provided a great Christmas for our customers,” said chief executive Mike Coupe. “Food price deflation and falling fuel prices have enabled our customers to treat themselves over the festive period.”

Convenience sales grew by 16% during the quarter. Its c-stores took over six million customer transactions in the week before Christmas and took over £8m on 24 December- its largest ever day for convenience sales.

It also recorded its biggest Christmas online - in the three days to 23 December its online team delivered more than 110,000 orders.

Coupe added: “The outlook for the remainder of the financial year is set to remain challenging, with food price deflation likely to continue. Our performance in the third quarter showed an improving trend quarter-on-quarter. However, given the uncertainty in the trading environment, food price deflation and the price reductions we announced this week, we currently expect our fourth quarter like-for-like to be similar to that of our first half.

“Our prices versus our supermarket peers have never been better and alongside our differentiated quality and service offer, we are confident we will help our customers Live Well for Less throughout 2015.”

Sainsbury’s shares rose over 4% in early trading to 246p as its like-for-like sales decline was better than the 2.5%-3% revenue fall analysts had predicted. Its share price had fallen back to below par by mid-morning.