SAINSBURY’S has reported its smallest rise in underlying quarterly sales in almost five years.
Britain's third biggest grocery chain said stores open at least one year rose 1.7 per cent, excluding fuel, in the fourth quarter.
Sales rose 3.7 per cent in the third quarter but a slowdown in price inflation and economic uncertainty before a general election have hit the sector.
The company, which has 525 supermarkets and 300 convenience stores, faces a tough environment but things would pick up, according to chief executive Justin King.
He said: “While we expect the consumer environment to remain challenging in 2010, our universal customer appeal together with our accelerated growth of space for new supermarkets, extensions and convenience stores means we are well placed to make continued good progress."