Outgoing Sainsbury's boss offers sobering financial warning

This afternoon I met Justin King, the CEO of Sainsbury's.

As head of a household name serving 18.5 million shoppers, he has a vantage point of knowledge about our spending that few could rival.

What he told me will serve as a sobering financial warning, coming as it does in the week were we were told that, officially, the economy is on the mend.

I spoke to Justin King in his office at the central London HQ.

Inside he has hung cartoons and memorabilia from 10 years at the top of the grocery chain.

You can tell by looking at this collection that he has a fun side to his personality, underlined by the reputation he has developed as a people person known personally to many of his 150,000 staff.

Less fun, though, is his warning on the real state of Britain's fledgling recovery:

For the vast majority of people, the 30 million or so people that have stayed in work throughout this economic downturn, today they have less money in their pocket than they did a year ago. Their wages are going up less than inflation. That's been the case for many people for 4 or 5 years and looks likely to be the case for several years to come. The reality for most shoppers is still budgets under pressure.

Justin King's departure from the chain has generated headlines throughout the day.

I suspect that few delight him as much as the one I spotted in the Birmingham Evening Mail "Former Mail paperboy steps down".

Justin King began his career as a paperboy for the Birmingham Mail as the newspaper reminded readers today. Credit: Birmingham Mail

He confirmed to me that doing the paper round in Birmingham was his first job - and he's worked ever since.

For those still struggling to make ends meet he says: "The reality of average wages being behind average inflation means that on average household budgets are under more pressure and we see that very clearly in the way customers are shopping week in week out".

The paper boy from Brum is still unafraid to give economists and politicians a reality check.