The Surprising Buy Case For J Sainsbury plc

Today I am looking at an eye-opening reason why shares in J Sainsbury (LSE: SBRY) (NASDAQOTH: JSAIY.US) are ready to explode higher amid striding popularity with online shoppers.

Online offering blitzes the opposition

Not only is Sainsbury outstripping its major British grocery rivals in the aisles, but it is also smashing its competitors in its drive to become the UK’s foremost online grocery provider.

Indeed, the company has seen sales growth through its internet channel overtake that of industry leviathan Tesco recently. Sainsbury lays claim to operating the country’s “fastest-growing online business of any major food retailer”, and the company currently receives 190,000 online orders each week, up 25,000 on last year.

Sainsbury has seen sales growth at its online division outstrip the wider market average in three of the past four years. And in the fiscal year ending March 2013, Sainsbury saw sales from its internet channel rise close to 20%. By comparison, Tesco reported 13% online sales growth in the 12 months ending February 2013.

The company is betting big on this area to undergird future growth — Sainsbury can now deliver to more than 95% of all UK households — and continues to invest heavily in its IT infrastructure to support growing volumes. The supermarket has also seen the efficiencies across its product picking and delivery operations punch double-digit improvement over the past year.

And innovations in the firm’s online proposition have helped to buck wider earnings pressure across the middle-ground grocery space. Sainsbury’s market share rose from 16.6% to 16.8% in April-June, a trend which the company attributed to outperformance in general merchandise sales — indeed, non-food revenues are currently expanding at twice the rate of food, Sainsbury says.

This has been helped by online schemes such as its massive ‘Click & Collect‘ scheme, operating across 900 of its stores. This allows shoppers who place general merchandise orders by 2pm to collect their goods the following day from any store. More than 50% of all online general merchandise purchases are made in this way, a figure which rose to 75% in the week before Christmas.

City analysts expect earnings per share to continue ticking higher over the medium term, with anticipated growth of 6% for both this year and next defying expectations of continued earnings pressure across much of the grocery space. In my opinion, Sainsbury’s ever-improving online offering should continue to deliver the goods well beyond the medium term.

Get ready for spectacular retail returns

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> Royston does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares in Sainsbury's.