LONDON, March 18 Britain's J Sainsbury
ended a nine-year run of quarterly sales growth on Tuesday,
underlining sluggish trading momentum for the country's major
grocers in the early months of 2014 and reflecting a tough
comparative figure last year.
The group, which trails market leader Tesco and is
battling with Wal-Mart Stores' Asda to be the UK's No. 2
grocer, said sales at stores open over a year fell 3.1 percent,
excluding fuel, in the 10 weeks to March 15, its fiscal fourth
That compared to a rise of 3.6 percent in the same period
last year, analysts' forecasts in a range of down 2-3 percent
and growth in the third quarter of 0.2 percent.
Prior to the fourth quarter Sainsbury's had reported
like-for-like sales growth for 36 straight quarters.
The firm's total fourth quarter sales fell 1.0 percent,
Sainsbury's said it was confident it would outperform peers
in the year ahead.