// Sainsbury’s has recorded strong Christmas sales
// It expects underlying pre-tax profits for the year to hit £330m compared with £270m
// Sales in the 3 months to January 2 rose by 8.6% on a like-for-like basis
Sainsbury’s has witnessed a “strong Christmas” after an increase in like-for-like sales with more customers than ever placing online orders for the festive season.
The Big 4 grocer now expects underlying pre-tax profits for the year to hit £330 million compared with £270 million previously predicted.
However, this will be still down on the £586 million recorded last year due to Sainsbury’s agreeing to pay its £410 million business rates bill.
Nonetheless, the profit upgrade came as the supermarket said sales in the three months to January 2 rose by 8.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis.
The like-for-like measure does not include the permanent closure of 120 standalone Argos stores which were not reopened after the first national lockdown in March.
On a total basis, sales during the three-month period were up 6.8 per cent.
Sales over the Christmas period period – the nine weeks to January 2 – increased by 9.3 per cent.
Grocery sales were up 7.4 per cent, with its online business skyrocketing 128 per cent as 1.1 million online orders for food were delivered in the 10 days leading up to Christmas.
Meanwhile, non-food sales grew by six per cent, with Argos sales up 8.4 per cent in the three months to January 2.
Sainsbury’s said Christmas and Black Friday sales beat expectations, as stores benefitted from the second national lockdown in England in November – which allowed non-essential stores such as its Argos business to trade on a click-and-collect basis.
Chief executive Simon Roberts said the tighter Christmas restrictions saw customers turn to smaller turkeys and an increase in lamb and beef sales, but shoppers treated themselves to more premium products.
“While people had smaller gatherings, they still treated themselves, with Taste The Difference sales up 11 per cent,” he said.
“Premium champagne sales were up 52 per cent, Taste The Difference party food was popular throughout December, and people did more home baking than usual, with mincemeat sales up 24 per cent.
“Customers still wanted New Year’s Eve at home to feel special and we sold a record number of steaks.”
Roberts added: “Argos sales were up over eight per cent, with fast-track home delivery and click and Collect beating expectations for Black Friday and Christmas.”