Shares in Ocado were up this morning as the online grocer said “strong demand” for its offer boosted quarterly sales “despite the economic background in the UK”.

The UK retailer’s share price was up 1% at 9:20 GMT today (4 March) to 212.6p after the company recorded a 24.7% increase in gross sales during its first quarter Sales in the three months to 20 February reached GBP146.2m (US$237.4m).

Ocado’s average number of orders per week increased by 26.1%, although the average order size declined slightly to GBP118.06 from GBP119.38 in the same quarter of 2010.

While Ocado is yet to record a full-year profit, it did record a GBP300,000 net profit in the fourth quarter of last year and today CFO Andrew Bracey said the business “continued to be profitable” in its first quarter.

“With very strong momentum both in sales and orders in the first quarter we continue to see the operational leverage of the business come through. As expected, the EBITDA conversion in the first quarter was ahead of the second half of 2010,” Bracey said.

Commenting on the group’s performance during the quarter, CEO Tim Steiner added: “Despite the economic headwinds in the UK, more and more consumers are seeing the benefits of online grocery shopping and we are increasing capacity to meet this demand.”