ASSOCIATED British Foods revealed today that its budget fashion chain Primark had left rival retailers trailing in its wake over the key Christmas trading period, with a 25% increase in sales.

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And the group also reported increased revenues from its sugar business, which includes UK beet processor British Sugar, although it warned that poor growing conditions last year had resulted in a lower beet yield and sugar content.

ABF’s update for the 16 weeks to January 5 did not include a like-for-like sales figure for Primark but retail analysts said that, taking into account the opening of new stores, the total sales figure appeared to indicate same-store growth of around 9%.

Neil Shah, analyst at Edison Investment Research, said: “Primark has delivered a lesson in clothing retailing to the UK high street with the best of any sales figures over the final quarter.”

Elsewhere, ABF said revenues within its sugar business were 12% up compared with the same stage last year, and those from its agriculture division, which includes AB Vista were 3% ahead.

Revenues from its grocery division, which includes brands such as Kingsmill, Ryvita, Twinings, and Ovaltine, and its ingredients business were both flat.

ABF said UK sugar sales volumes so far were up on last year’s abnormally low level, with prices marginally higher.

But it warned that, due to the poor growing season, UK production for the current year was expected to total only 1.13million tonnes, against last year’s 1.32m, and profit for the current year would be lower as a result.

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