French retailer Carrefour Group has announced a healthy 5% total sales growth domestically but reported weak trends in the rest of Europe in the first quarter of the 2006 financial year. Total sales increased 6% compared to the corresponding period last year.

The company recorded a 2.7% increase in like-for-like sales in France, put down to higher food volumes during Q1.

In the rest of Europe, like-for-like sales stayed flat due to deflation and lower promotional activity, the retailer said, with its most challenging markets Belgium and Italy, where like-for-likes fell by 3.2%.

First quarter like-for-like sales in Latin America jumped 2% despite a 3.7% drop in Brazil – attributed to this year’s late Easter period – and fell 0.6% in Asia, affected by declines in Thai and Taiwanese markets.

The company reported EUR19.6bn (US$23.7bn) in total reported sales over the quarter, and also noted especially good growth in Argentina, Colombia, China and Malaysia.

New openings contributed 4.6% of total growth for the Q1 period, and its expansion strategy looks likely to continue. The company said in a statement: “A strategic priority of Carrefour Group is to accelerate the opening of new m² to reinforce already strong market positions in those markets where we choose to trade. In 2005, we began to accelerate the rate of new m² openings while preparing for faster growth in future years. After our efforts in 2005, the growth pipeline is now full, and we are on track to open 1.5 million m² of new space this year.”

The company said that its top priority remains price competitiveness and added that it is on track to reach the target of higher sales growth in 2006 than in 2005.