- Supermarket group J Sainsbury said its sales in the first quarter, excluding fuel, jumped 8.5% as households stocked up during Covid-19 lockdowns.

The company, however, said it still expected its annual profits to be flat, owing to increased costs associated with making its stores safer and hiring extra staff to meet demand.

Falling demand for petrol would also hurt the bottom line.

Sales including fuel for the 16 weeks through 28 June fell 2.1% amid a dramatic drop in travel. Like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, rose 8.2%.

'Our base case scenario continues to underpin an expectation of broadly unchanged group underlying profit before tax for the full year,' Sainsbury's said.

The profit impact from the Covid-19 crisis was expected to be more than £500m, it said, broadly offset by business rates relief and stronger grocery sales.

'The coming weeks and months will continue to be challenging for our customers and our colleagues and we do not expect the current strong sales growth to continue,' chief executive Simon Roberts said.

'A number of the decisions we have made have materially increased costs but meant that we have done the right thing for our customers and set us up well for the future.'

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