The Southern Co-operative is celebrating a merry Christmas trading period with like-for-like sales up 4.7% and a total sales increase of 5.4% in the three weeks to 3 January 2016.

The group attributed the success to more competitive pricing and an improved product range.

During the Christmas week itself, like-for-like sales rose by 7.7% while stores served around 80,000 additional customers.

Chief executive Mark Smith said: “These are our best Christmas trading results for some years, reflecting the hard work and enthusiasm of our colleagues across The Southern Co-operative. Our latest figures build on an improving trend in our sales during the autumn and provide an ideal platform for us to enter 2016 from.”

The fresh food categories saw the best like-for-like performance with fruit and vegetable sales up 10%, where total volumes rose by 22% year-on-year over the three week period. Chilled product sales grew by 8% like for like.

Sales of locally sourced products also grew by 10%, followed by in-store bakery products which rose by 9%.

Beers, wines and spirits sales were also up more than 10%.

Smith added: “Our team should be proud to have achieved such strong results in a fiercely competitive market.

“We expect the sector to remain just as competitive throughout 2016, but with the benefit of the enhanced Co-operative Food ranges and our investment in sharper pricing, we expect to continue to deliver core sales growth alongside our ambitious plans for additional new stores in the year ahead.”