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Sainsbury sales are boosted by Paralympic backing

Sainsbury's continued to put its bigger rival Tesco in the shade as it revealed strong sales growth helped by a one-off boost from its sponsorship of the Paralympic Games.

The UK's third biggest supermarket - which has 13 stores in Northern Ireland - revealed a 1.9% rise in like-for-like sales excluding fuel but including VAT in the 16 weeks to September 29, compared with 1.4% growth in the 12 weeks to June 9.

The grocer's update came as number one competitor Tesco revealed 0.2% growth in like-for-like sales also excluding fuel and including VAT - although Tesco's second quarter covered a different trading period.

Sainsbury's, which operates more than 1,000 stores, said sales were driven by a good performance from its top-end Taste The Difference range, which saw near double-digit growth in the period.

But the group also enjoyed a profile boost as a sponsor of the Paralympic Games between August 29 and September 9, as the supermarket aired regular adverts during the television coverage.

Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said: "Sainsbury continues to battle hard, keeping the pressure on rivals."

The firm saw sales of non-food products grow at a pace around three times that of food, with jeans doubling year-on-year following the launch of its Denim Shop.

Sainsbury's said it had continued to open space in line with its plans in the second quarter.

Despite scaling back its expansion, Sainsbury's opened five supermarkets and 28 convenience stores.

Chief executive Justin King said its "competitive pricing, targeted promotions, quality own label products, and outstanding customer service" positioned it well for the key Christmas period.