- Supermarket chain Sainsbury's posted a fall in third-quarter sales as it lost ground to German discount retailers during the crucial Christmas trading period.

Total retail sales for the 15 weeks to 5 January fell 0.4%, while like-for-like sales excluding fuel falling by an even deeper 1.1%.

Grocery sales grew 0.4% but general merchandise sales slipped 2.3%.

Recently acquired general merchandise business Argos outperformed a weak general merchandise market in the quarter, though sales were impacted by cautious customer and reduced promotional activity across Black Friday.

Chief executive Mike Coupe said customers had timed their Christmas shopping later than usual in 2018.

'Retail markets are highly competitive and very promotional and the consumer outlook continues to be uncertain,' he said.

'However, we are well placed to navigate the external environment and remain focused on delivering our strategy.'

Sainsbury's said it still expected to generate cost savings of £200m in the current financial year.

Industry data released this week by Kantar Woldpanel showed Germany's Aldi and Lidl both substantially boosted their UK market share in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

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