UK supermarket groups are honing in on clothing as their secret weapon in the battle to increase sales and market share.
 
Last week Britain's third-largest supermarket group J Sainsbury said it is planning an aggressive expansion into clothes as part of a bid to increase sales by GBP3.5bn over the next three years, and at the weekend, Asda hinted that it is planning to launch up to 300 Asda Living stores to sell George clothing as well as homeware and electrical goods.

Sainsbury's, which fought off a private equity takeover approach earlier this year, is on the ascendant after posting a 42% hike in annual profits to GBP380m (US$748m), and a 5.9% rise in like-for-like supermarket sales, excluding petrol, in the year to 24 March.

Total sales have grown by GBP1.8bn since the group introduced the first stage of its recovery plan in October 2004.

Non-food sales at Sainsbury's - which include clothes and household goods - currently account for just 15% of turnover. But if all goes to plan they will deliver around a third of the GBP3.5bn sales growth target by March 2010.