A TOUGH spring for the UK's supermarkets has been underlined after Sainsbury's posted lower underlying sales for a second quarter in a row.

Chief executive Justin King, who is leaving the chain next month after ten years in charge, said consumers continued to spend cautiously, leading to the slowest industry growth in a decade.

Like-for-like sales at the UK's third biggest supermarket chain were 1.1 per cent lower when excluding fuel in the 12 weeks to June 7.

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The total sales figure, which includes changes in store space, was one per cent higher than a year earlier.

In the previous quarter Sainsbury's saw like-for-like sales drop 3.1 per cent in its first decline in nine years, leading to growth of 0.2 per cent across the financial year.

All four major supermarket retailers have found themselves squeezed by the rapid growth of German discount chains Aldi and Lidl, with Morrisons and Tesco particularly affected.

Mr King said Sainsbury's continued to invest in reducing prices, adding that he is confident the strategy will enable the chain to outperform its peers.

He said: "We expect customer spending to remain cautious and we will continue to invest to keep our offer competitive to help customers balance their household budget."