German discount retailer Aldi saw its sales rise 16.8% in January and February, with a 12.2% rise in shopper numbers.

Independent data from TNS Worldpanel showed that Aldi recorded year-on-year growth of 16.3% for the 12 weeks ending 22 March.

The news comes as Aldi opened its 400th UK store in Exeter on Thursday (16 April), taking the total number of Aldi stores in the UK and Ireland to 467.

“Usually, during economic uncertainty, people retire into their comfort zones and stick to what they know,” said Paul Foley, group managing director of Aldi UK and Ireland. “This isn’t the case, as we’re finding more of our shoppers are using us for their whole shop instead of top-up shopping, as they switch from the supermarkets and brands they are more familiar with.”

Aldi said it will invest around GBP200m (US$292m) this year as it aims to reach 500 stores including extending and refurbishing 36 stores in the UK and Ireland.     

Foley added: “Food price inflation is likely to lead to more people stepping-out of their supermarket comfort zone in 2009 as they look to cut costs. Continuing to open Aldi stores will provide more consumers with the option to avoid downtrading as they strive to save money while maintaining grocery quality.”