Sainsbury's was Xmas winner amongst UK's top grocers- Kantar

LONDON Tue Feb 4, 2014 9:50am EST

LONDON Feb 4 (Reuters) - J Sainsbury was the strongest performer amongst the top six grocers in the UK market over the Christmas trading period, according to Kantar Worldpanel data seen by Reuters.

Sainsbury's, which vies with Wal-Mart's Asda as the second-biggest player behind market leader Tesco, saw sales grow 5.2 percent year-on-year in the six weeks to Jan. 5, increasing its UK grocery market share to 17.7 percent from 17.2 percent, data from the market researcher showed.

The data vindicates Sainsbury's outgoing chief executive Justin King, who said in the firm's third-quarter trading statement on Jan. 8 that he expected it to emerge as the Christmas winner among the major grocers.

The outcome meant second place in the growth stakes for upmarket supermarket Waitrose, the sixth biggest operator, with growth of 4.1 percent, and third place for the Co-Operative, the fifth-biggest, with growth of 3.1 percent.

Asda saw growth of 0.3 percent but Tesco and Morrisons , the fourth-biggest operator, saw sales decline by 0.7 percent and 1.7 percent respectively.

Sainsbury's Jan. 8 trading update reported sales at stores open over a year rose 0.2 percent, excluding fuel, in the 14 weeks to Jan. 4, its fiscal third quarter, with total sales up 2.7 percent. The firm did not detail sales for the key Christmas trading weeks.

Sainsbury's said last week that King would step down as chief executive in July after a decade at the helm and be succeeded by commercial director Mike Coupe.

The trend of the major grocers being hurt by discounters Aldi and Lidl was evident in the six-week Kantar data, with the firms seeing sales growth of 28.2 percent and 17.1 percent respectively.