Sainsbury’s King says supermarket battle goes on

BRITAIN’S third-biggest grocery chain, Sainsbury’s, has countered a claim from market leader Tesco that the race to expand 
supermarket space is over, saying it saw plenty of opportunities to open stores.

Sainsbury's Chief Executive Justin King alongside Paralympic gold medallists Jonnie Peacock (L) and David Weir. Picture: PA

Tesco chief executive Phil Clarke last year called a halt to the race among the big supermarkets to open new space, in reaction to the growing importance of internet shopping.

But Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King told the group’s annual shareholder meeting in London yesterday: “It may be that one or two of our competitors have chosen to leave that race. But that’s not quite the same as saying the space race is over, because for Sainsbury’s there’s still much opportunity to grow our business into the future.”

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In the 2012-13 financial year, Sainsbury’s added 14 supermarkets, 87 convenience stores and made eight extensions – adding a total of just over one million square feet and in line with its target of around 5 per cent gross space growth.

King said the company, which yesterday opened its 592nd store, in Bicester, would continue to open traditional supermarkets, with a development pipeline in parts of Britain where it is under-represented. It would also add space to existing stores through extensions.

That investment would complement the development of its estate of smaller local convenience stores.

Sainsbury’s is currently opening convenience stores at a rate of one or two a week and their number will surpass the number of traditional supermarkets later this year.