Sales growth at J Sainsbury, Britain's second-biggest supermarket group, has slipped after the company focused too much on making a profit rather than selling stock.
"With hindsight we probably went too far in reducing promotions and operating costs to achieve the profit target, at the expense of sales," chief executive Peter Davis said.
The group reported modest growth of 1.3% for like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter, taking into account last year's earlier Easter break.
Sainsbury's had managed to achieve stronger sales growth of 2.8% in the previous quarter.
Sainsbury's insists it will still achieve double-digit profit growth for this year as it upgrades stores after years of neglect and cost cuts.
"We remain confident that we are making real progress across the group to achieve our targets," Mr Davis said.
Last week, Trade and Industry Minister Patricia
Hewitt referred J Sainsbury's proposed bid for Safeway to the Competition Commission, along with those of Wal-Mart's Asda, Tesco, and William Morrison.
Shares have fallen 15% in the last three months to close at 220 pence on Thursday.