Sales through Sainsbury’s stores have fallen for the first time in nine years.

Total sales for the retailer’s fourth quarter were down 1.5% while like-for-like sales fell 3.8% .

This time last year Sainsbury’s had “benefited significantly” from the discovery of horsemeat in some of its competitors’ products, chief executive Justin King said.  “We are pleased, however, that market data shows we have maintained market share at 17.1%,” he added.

The later timing of Easter and Mother’s Day, which will fall in quarter one of its new financial year, combined with unseasonable weather, had also contributed to lower market growth year-on-year, King added.

Sales growth through its convenience business also slowed from 18% in the previous quarter to 15% in the 10 weeks to 15 March.

Sainsbury’s has opened 22 new convenience stores in the last quarter and 91 in the year to date.

“Although some economic indicators are showing an improvement in the health of the economy, we expect the outlook for customers to continue to be challenging for the coming year,” King added.