SAINSBURY’S three years of consistent underlying sales growth is expected to end as it battles against the big discount chains and comes up against tough comparatives from a year earlier.
Analysts are forecasting a decline of as much as 3 per cent in like-for-like sales when it updates investors this week, in a sharp reversal of recent fortunes.
The drop would bring to a close its lengthy run of sales growth, having seen underlying sales increase for 36 quarters in a row, and marks a downbeat end to the year’s trading for outgoing boss Justin King, who will hand over in July, after 10 years, to commercial director Mike Coupe.
Sainsbury’s only narrowly managed to hold on to the sales record over Christmas, when it eked out growth of 0.2 per cent in what it described as a “very tough sales environment”.
It put in the best performance of the “big four” players, but still came under pressure as it admitted it was likely to miss expectations for a full year like-for-like sales increase of 1 per cent to 1.5 per cent.
The fourth quarter update will make for “grim reading”, according to retail analyst Andrew Porteous at Agency Partners. He is pencilling in a 3 per cent drop, while Shore Capital Stockbrokers is forecasting a like-for-like fall of between 2.5 per cent and 3 per cent.