SAINSBURY’S like-for-like sales have tumbled since its failed bid to merge with a one of its biggest rivals, heaping more pressure on chief executive Mike Coupe ahead of today’s AGM.

Mr Coupe is already expected to face criticism from some investors following the collapse of its planned mega-merger with Asda earlier this year.

The retailer saw like-for-like sales decline by 1.6 per cent in the 16 weeks to June 29, as the decline accelerated from 0.9% in the previous quarter.

Total retail sales excluding fuel fell by 1.2% during the period, as the company said it was impacted by a “tough retail environment”.

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Grocery sales were down by 0.5% over the period, as the decline in sales slowed down from 0.6% in the previous period.

Sainsbury’s also reported sales slumps of 3.1% and 4.5% respectively for its general merchandise and clothing divisions.

Sainsbury’s, which has about 100 stores in Scotland, has moved to win over shoppers in recent months by lowering prices, with reductions on more than 1,000 food and grocery items.

The supermarket said it has also committed to reduce its net debt by at least £600 million over the next three years.

It has also outlined significant store investment which will make improvements in 400 stores nationwide.

It also opened two further Argos stores in Sainsbury’s supermarkets, bringing the total to 283.

Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury’s, said: “We continue to adapt our business to changing shopping habits and made good progress in a challenging market.

“We reduced prices on over 1,000 everyday food and grocery products and improved our relative performance.

“In a tough trading environment, we gained market share in key general merchandise categories and in clothing, where we are now the UK’s fifth largest retailer by volume.”

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It said general merchandise and clothing market conditions “remain challenging and poor weather conditions impacted demand in some seasonal categories”.

Sainsbury’s added: “Financial Services is performing in line with expectations, with continued good growth in customer numbers.

“We continue to deliver cost savings that at least offset the impact of cost inflation.”

The sales figures come just months after the competition watchdog, the CMA, blocked Sainsbury’s from joining forces with fellow “Big Four” supermarket Asda.

Alistair Douglas, investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said: “Sainsbury’s results underline the tough trading environment in the UK grocery sector.

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“The larger than expected decline in like-for-like sales is disappointing, with clothing and general merchandise particularly badly hit.

“However, there are some crumbs of comfort in the growth of Sainsbury’s plant-based range, enhanced beauty offering, and sales increases at its online and convenience formats – these gains mean it is now the UK’s fifth largest retailer by volume.”

He added: “The retail market, in general, is highly competitive and consumer sentiment is difficult to predict.

“Nevertheless, while Sainsbury’s says it plans to invest in its supermarkets and adjust to changing shopping habits, we’re still lacking a clear direction for the business in the wake of the failed merger with Asda.”

Sainsbury’s shares were down slightly 0.8%, or 1.6p, to 197.9p on the news.

Separately, Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis said that the new Brexit deadline of the end of October had meant there would be “less capacity” for retailers to stockpile longer-life items a second time round but he also told the BBC leaving the EU could provide opportunities for the UK.

He said: “It may be a good time for the UK to ... decide, actually: what food do we want to eat, with what impact on health, with what impact on the environment.

“Having a food strategy for the country would be a very good outcome.”