• Like-for-like sales increased by 1.5%
  • Excluding fuel, like-for-likes rose 0.9%
  • Clothing sales up 10% year-on-year

Supermarket retailer Sainsbury's has booked a 3.9% increase in third-quarter sales, boosted by its "strongest ever" Christmas trading period and growth in clothing.

Like-for-like sales increased by 1.5% in the three months to 5 February, its thirty-second consecutive set of positive like-for-like figures. Excluding fuel, like-for-like sales were up 0.9% in the quarter.

The result also showed a slowdown in comparable growth, which had risen by 1.7% in the proceeding six months.

CEO Justin King said the firm delivered "good sales" in a "challenging retail environment".

He added: "Customers are increasingly attracted into store by our complementary general merchandise and clothing offer and sales have continued to grow at a faster rate than food, increasing market share across non-food.

"Clothing has performed particularly well, growing at over 10% year-on-year, driven by investment in core ranges across women, men's and kids and a number of profitable promotions."

The company said its online business grew at over 15% during the quarter, with 60% of general merchandise orders collected via its 'Click & Collect' service.

Looking ahead, King said Sainsbury's remains cautious. "We expect the challenging economic backdrop to persist, with customers looking to re-balance their household budget after the festivities and so spending cautiously in the first few months of 2013."