Sainsburys Local, Earlsfield, London 10/9/09

Sainsbury's has reported an 18% fall in its profits for the first six months of its financial year, blaming a "particularly challenging" market.

The supermarket said underlying pre-tax profits in the 28 weeks to 26 September were £308 million, down 17.9% on the same period last year.

Total sales, excluding fuel, were down 0.1% with like-for-like sales, which exclude new stores, dropped 1.6%. Food sales fell close to 1%, but clothing sales grew by nearly 10%. Sainsbury's said food price deflation resulted in its supermarkets reporting a 2% fall in sales, whereas is smaller convenience stores rose by 11%.

Despite beating analysts' expectations of a £293m profit, the £308m figure was Sainsbury's lowest such profit since 2010. And in September, it reported its seventh consecutive fall in quarterly profits. But there was positive news for the supermarket chain in three months to 11 October. Supermarket researcher Kantar Worldpanel said that Sainsbury's was the only of the 'big four' to see sales rise, raising its market share to 16.1%.

Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe said "the grocery retail marketplace remains challenging" as the big supermarkets continue to battle it out over prices.