J Sainsbury had its best Christmas ever this year, with a record 19m customers served in the Christmas week.

The last minute flurry helped to push like-for-like sales growth (excluding petrol) up to 5.2% in the three months to the end of December.

Chief executive Justin King also hailed the retailer’s success in reducing grocery prices in store. The year has seen prices fall by 1%, and Mr King has promised further cuts.

“Our sales momentum is allowing us to deliver continuing improvements in the customer offer but we are still incurring additional costs as we embed new processes,” he said.

“We expect the market to remain highly competitive during quarter four.”

The supermarket is on the cusp of regaining its number two spot in terms of market share by overtaking Asda.

It is also closing a depot in Rotherham, South Yorks and has plans to close another warehouse at Northfleet, Kent.