Sainsbury's Sales Slide Is 'End Of An Era'
Supermarket chain Sainsbury's has reported like-for-like sales down 3.1%, ending 36 successive quarters of growth.
The result for sales, excluding fuel, were for the 10 weeks to March 15 - its fiscal fourth quarter.
That compared to a rise of 3.6% in the same period last year.
The result was worse than analysts had forecast.
Including recently opened stores, the firm's total fourth quarter sales fell 1% excluding fuel.
CEO Justin King told Sky News: "We've had 36 quarters, that's nine years, of consistent growth so obviously it is disappointing to be reporting sales down for this quarter."
The company said sales at its convenience stores were up 15% but online sales growth slowed to 6%.
It said this was because of a reduction in marketing while a new web portal was launched.
The firm said it expects a challenging 12 months ahead but expects to outperform its rivals in the ultra-competitive sector.
Sainsbury's is battling with Asda to be the second biggest firm in the sector, behind market leader Tesco.
Number four group Morrisons reported a loss last week and saw its share price drop 10%.
It said it would invest £1bn in slashing prices over the next three years to lure back customers, prompting further fears of an expanded price war.
Smaller discount chains such as Aldi and Lidl have attracted shoppers while upmarket Waitrose and Marks and Spencer have also taken a bite from the main retailers.
The sales slide for Sainsbury's comes as Mr King prepares to leave the firm in July.