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Sainsbury's, the supermarket chain, has reported a 3.6pc rise in like-for-like sales over the last ten weeks, beating expectations in the City and boosting hopes of a recovery in the British economy ahead of the Budget.
Sales rose by 2.1% from a year ago, with a strong pick up in sales growth in the last three months of the year.
Sales for the supermarket group appear to have benefited from the discovery of horse meat in beef products sold by rivals Tesco and Asda. No horse meat has been found in Sainsbury's products despite the crisis across the industry.
With all its fresh beef sourced from the UK and Ireland and DNA testing carried out on its products for the last 10 years, Sainsbury's said recent tests on more than 300 products revealed no horsemeat.
Furthermore, a strong Valentine's Day and Mother's Day business has helped Sainsbury's to overshoot sales hopes.
The company's chief executive, Justin King, said: "Valentine's Day and Mother's Day were both particularly strong this year, and we closed the quarter with a very successful Red Nose Day, presenting a record cheque for £10.5m on behalf of customers and colleagues."
The non-food products category represented the best sales growth, where profit margins are generally higher, with clothing sales 20% above those of a year ago.
Online sales were also a fast-growing area, with online grocery sales up by almost 20% over the year. The chain delivers to 190,000 customers a week.
The supermarket, which is the country's third-largest after Tesco and Asda, will report full profit figures in May. The figures were higher than expected, and mark the 33rd consecutive quarter of rising sales.
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