Sainsbury’s festive sales fall after non-food hit

Sainsbury’s has said sales dropped over its festive quarter after general merchandise trading was hit by consumer caution and as it held off from heavy discounting.

The supermarket giant saw like-for-like retail sales, including Argos and excluding fuel, fall 1.1% in the 15 weeks to January 5.

Grocery sales rose 0.4% in the 15 weeks to January 5, but this was offset by a 2.3% drop in general merchandise and a 0.2% decline for clothing.

Sainsbury’s sales figures
Sainsbury’s sales figures

Boss Mike Coupe said Christmas “came late” as shoppers held off until the final weeks, while he warned over an “uncertain” consumer outlook.

The group said general merchandise sales, including its Argos business, grew “strongly” over the key Christmas weeks, but this was not enough to boost the overall performance.

Mr Coupe added: “Sales declined in the quarter due to cautious customer spending and our decision to reduce promotional activity across Black Friday.

“Clothing performed well, with strong full-price sales growth in a tough market.

“Retail markets are highly competitive and very promotional, and the consumer outlook continues to be uncertain.”