UK frozen food retailer Iceland has reported like-for-like sales growth of 16.1% over the key Christmas period, while total sales went up by 10.8%. Like-for-like sales for the quarter rose 14.8% and total sales increased by 9.3% for the October to December period.

Malcolm Walker, Iceland CEO, said: “Our excellent like-for-like performance has been based on a strategy of simplifying the business and refocusing on our traditional strengths as the UK’s leading specialist retailer of innovative, value-for-money frozen food.”

Total sales figures may have been adversely affected by the elimination of what the company describes as non-core operations – this has included the withdrawal of Iceland’s home shopping facility (which generated GBP30m annually) and the closure of 46 stores.

 The company simultaneously announced the sale of 28 leasehold stores to Marks & Spencer for GBP38m. “This was a really outstanding offer, which we felt that it was our duty to our shareholders to accept,” Walker said.

The store staffs’ contracts will be transferred to M&S and their terms and conditions of employment will be fully protected.

Walker added that: “The sale of these stores will temporarily reduce our UK estate under the Iceland fascia from 703 to 675 units. However, the strength of our recent performance is such that our sales will still be substantially higher than those generated from 749 stores a year ago.”