UK supermarket retailer J Sainsbury Plc today (8 October) posted a 3.9% rise in like-for-like sales for the first half of its fiscal year after sales accelerated during its second quarter.

The company, which is the UK's third-largest grocer and the ninth largest clothing retailer through its Tu brand, said like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, for the six months to 4 October were up 3.9%.

Second-quarter sales by the same measure rose 4.3%, up from the 3.4% reported in Sainsbury's first quarter, as cash strapped shoppers trade down to cheaper ranges. Total sales for the quarter were up 5.3%.

Chief executive Justin King said the company's non-food ranges "continue to drive strong sales growth. We now have nine flagship non-food stores with a wide range of Tu home and Tu clothing."

"Non-food generally is doing very well," a spokesperson for Sainsbury's confirmed to just-style, "and we're rolling it out to more stores. As we extend stores, a large part of those extensions are dedicated to clothing and homeware.

"Clothing is growing really well for us, although the only caveat is that we're coming from quite a small base [in comparison with Tesco and Asda]."

One of the reasons for this growth is "the value customers get."

The spokesperson added: "Consumers are trading down with both homeware and clothing and we're definitely finding our clothing range is growing because of the price point it's at.

"You can go into the store and do your normal grocery shop and pick up a jacket or cardigan that will only cost you GBP10 (US$17) or GBP15.

Best-sellers include a yoga pant, cashmere jumpers for GBP35, and a new range of leather jackets, boots and bags, and kid's clothing.

Looking ahead though, King cautioned that economic conditions remain "particularly challenging."

He said: "We expect this to continue throughout the second half, but we have developed the Sainsbury's offer to perform in these conditions."