Falling fuel prices have hit Sainsbury’s sales figures hard.

In its third quarter trading statement for the 14 weeks to January 3 it said retail sales were down 2.5% compared with the same period a year ago, but when fuel was stripped out of the fall was 0.4%.

Like-for-like sales were even down even more at 3.9%, and with fuel stripped out the fall was 1.7%

Mike Coupe, chief executive, said: “The trend of more frequent and local shopping continues and we saw growth of over 16% in our convenience business in the quarter. As well as over six million convenience customer transactions in the week before Christmas, we also saw our largest ever day for convenience sales on 24th December, taking over £8m.

"We opened 25 new convenience stores and refurbished a further seven in the quarter. We also opened four new supermarkets, one extension and one replacement store, and refurbished seven supermarkets.”