Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s (LON:SBRY) have reported further struggle in a challenging market, with an 18 percent fall in first half profit proving to be its lowest for six and a half years.

However, the figure was still above analysts’ average forecast of £293 million, sending shares up 2 percent in early trade.

The supermarket sector has been a tough environment over the last few quarters, with big chains like Tesco and Sainsbury’s losing out to budget shops such as Lidl and Aldi. Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe laid out plans last year for a series of price cuts and quality improvements to tempt back customers, but so far progress has been slow.

“The grocery retail marketplace remains challenging,” said Coupe. “I am confident we are making progress and we are looking forward to a successful Christmas.”

The company’s full-year profit is expected to fall again on last year; before today’s results, analysts had forecast a 2015-16 pretax profit of £573 million, down from £681 million made in 2014-15.

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