Sainsbury's outperforms in 'solid' Christmas quarter

UK supermarket J Sainsbury (LSE: SBRY) reported a “solid grocery performance” over the festive quarter, with food sales rising 8.6% in the 6 weeks to January 6th. This outperformed the wider market for the fourth consecutive Christmas period. Across the 16 weeks to January 6th, grocery sales climbed 9.3% year-on-year.

However, general merchandise sales dropped 0.6% over the third financial quarter due to Argos’s closure of Irish operations. Excluding this impact, general merchandise sales actually rose 1.5%.

Across Sainsbury’s entire retail business, total sales excluding fuel increased 6.5% in the 16 weeks and 4.9% specifically over the Christmas quarter.

The trading update sent Sainsbury’s shares down 4.7% in early trading on Wednesday.

Looking ahead, Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts said: “We enter 2024 with strong momentum and next month we will share our updated strategy, building on all we’ve done to put food back at the heart of Sainsbury’s over the last three years.”

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For the full financial year ending March 2nd, guidance is unchanged with underlying pretax profit expected between £670-700 million, compared to £690 million last year. Sainsbury’s also anticipates generating over £600 million in retail free cash flow next year.

Analysts at Wealth Club said while the key grocery arm remains robust in a competitive sector, Sainsbury’s “cannot afford to rest on its laurels”. Consumer caution persists despite easing cost of living pressures.

Sainsbury’s next scheduled trading update is on April 25th, when it will release full financial 2024 results.