Supermarket-giant Waitrose has ushered in the New Year with “exceptional” sales after shoppers flocked to the stores to stock up on champagne and party food.

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The grocer said like-for-like sales were 5.4pc higher than last year between December 18 and 31 as shoppers prepared to entertain friends and family during the festive period.

With demand for fresh food also strong, total sales in the 12 day period broke the £300m barrier for the first time following an 8.8pc rise.

Mark Price, managing director, said: "Our sales for the festive period as a whole have been record-breaking, but the 12 trading days leading up to New Year's Eve were exceptional as customers got ready for family entertaining and parties."

Waitrose, which has 288 shops across the country including stores in North Walsham, Swaffham, Norwich and Wymondham, scaled back its Christmas advertising campaign for 2012 and instead featured chefs Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal promoting its community charity scheme in an empty studio.

It also extended its shop opening hours during the festive period, with some shops opening as late as 11pm.

Last week it reported that in its Christmas trading period, between November 4 and December 24, sales were up 4.3pc on a like-for-like basis.

The supermarket is part of the John Lewis Partnership, which yesterday reported a 13pc hike in like-for-like sales at its department store chain.

The figures come ahead of Christmas trading updates from three of the country's biggest supermarkets - Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons - next week. High street food and clothes giant Marks & Spencer will also update the City.

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