X5 Retail Group has booked an 8.1% increase in first-quarter net sales, driven by store openings – although like-for-like sales were less buoyant.

During the first three months of the year, net selling space rose by 12.4%. The company’s store opening programme was largely focused on its soft discount format, where net sales were up 9.1%.

However, the company’s like-for-like performance was less robust. Total LFL sales increased by just 0.5%. Sales at the group’s soft discount banner, stripping out store openings, were actually down by 0.2%.

Significantly, X5’s growth trajectory remains in line with the firm’s full-year performance for 2012, when total sales were up 8.4%. However, its growth is dwarfed in comparison to rival Magnit, which today (12 April) claimed it had overtaken X5 to become Russia’s larget grocer by sales.

Magnit’s sales expanded by 34% during 2012 and the company is scheduled to announce its results for the first quarter on 23 April.