Sainsbury's lifted some of the gloom surrounding the retail industry this week as it announced a 7.6% rise in first-half sales and pre-tax profits up 13.3% to £258m.

With total sales of £10.7m, the interims were attributed to Sainsbury's “universal appeal” by CEO Justin King.

“We have continued to invest in product quality and competitive pricing,” King said.

“Sainsbury's is catering for, and appealing to, the full range of customer needs and budgets. We’re winning more business from existing customers and from new customers.”

A defiant King added: “While we expect the economic environment during the second half to remain particularly challenging, we are developing our offer to maintain our good progress,” he said. Having disposed of 45 convenience stores this year, King revealed plans to create 150 new c-stores in the next three years, saying it was “in tune with shoppers wanting to buy fresh food locally”.

The convenience side of the business had been boosted by the appointment of convenience director Dido Harding and improving supply chains, he said. “We’re tripling the pace ,” he said. “We have the flexibility in the balance sheet to do it.”

Meanwhile, Sainsbury's Christmas campaign on Wednesday, bringing Ant and Dec on board. King said the chain aimed to increase sales space by 5% per annum in 2009 and 2010. And with store sizes also rising to up to 95,000 sq ft, Sains- bury’s was now in a position to expand non-food. “Five years ago we didn’t have a trading model to fill the space. Now we’re growing non-food twice as fast as food. What we’ve achieved is stunning but [at 1.5%] our shares are still tiny. The next step is to double this and I don’t think anything in the market makes it impossible.”