King looks to Queen for boost from street parties

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The Independent Online

Justin King, the chief executive of Sainsbury's, said yesterday he expected the grocery sector to get a major boost from street parties during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June.

He made his comments as the UK's third-biggest supermarket chain delivered an acceleration in underlying revenue growth in its fourth quarter, boosted by a surge in sales of its Basics and premium Taste the Difference ranges.

Sainsbury's, which has more than 1,000 shops, has lifted underlying sales ahead of Tesco, Morrisons and Asda in recent months.

Mr King, who took charge at Sainsbury's eight years ago, expects a short-term boost to spending from this year's European Football Championship, the Olympics and the Paralympics, but forecast the biggest uplift from the extended four-day weekend of the Diamond Jubilee.

He said: "That week of the Diamond Jubilee, particularly if there is good weather, there will be really strong events, and eating-out and street parties so that will be the biggest."

Sainsbury's posted like-for-like sales growth of 2.6 per cent, excluding fuel, over the 10 weeks to 17 March, contributing to a 2.1 per cent rise over the full year. Stripping out a 0.8 per cent boost from store extensions, underlying sales rose1.8 per cent in the fourth quarter.

Mr King said: "It is definitely our strongest quarter of the last four and is a strong finish to the year." While he said there had been a "slight uptick in the market, we have kicked on ahead of our competitors".

However, he declined to call the end of the consumer downturn in the UK, adding: "I think that 2012 will be look very much like 2011."

Total sales rose 5.1 per cent. Sales of its Basics range rose 10 per cent, while Taste the Difference grew almost 20 per cent.