Tesco said today (5 December) that it had maintained strong growth during the third quarter, driven by all four parts of its business strategy. Despite a deflation in petrol prices, group sales were up 9.6% in the 13 weeks to 25 November 2006.

Group sales, excluding petrol, increased by 10.3% in the period.

"The core UK business delivered another strong performance; in non-food, sales and market share again increased in a subdued market; our international operations made further good progress and our retailing services businesses continued to attract new customers," the company said in a statement.

Excluding petrol, UK like-for-like growth in the quarter was 5.6% and total sales growth was 8.5%. Including petrol, UK sales grew by 7.4%, with like-for-like growth of 4.4% and 3.0% from net new stores. Deflation overall was 0.1% but excluding petrol, Tesco's stores saw inflation of 0.8%, driven by higher energy costs and increases in market prices for produce and meat. The company said these inflationary pressures are expected to subside in the months ahead.

"This year's programme of new UK space is on track, with almost a third of the total footage opening in the fourth quarter. We opened seven new stores last week, including our flagship environment store in Wick, which is expected to have a 50% smaller carbon footprint than comparable stores," the statement said.

International sales in the third quarter increased by 17.9% at constant exchange rates, a similar rate of growth to the first half, and by 17.5% at actual rates.

"We plan to open over 300 stores with a total of more than 4.5m square feet of sales area in International during the second half this year, representing our largest ever opening programme overseas," Tesco said.