The Co-operative Group’s like-for-like sales at food stores in the week leading up to Christmas were up 3.1%, with mince pie sales up 12%.

In the four weeks ending 31 December 2011, the company saw an increase of 3.1% at its food retail outlets, including VAT and excluding fuel. The bigger picture showed a 0.2% drop in like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to 31 December on the same period last year.

The food stores’ freshly-baked mince pies range was reported to be one of its top-selling Christmas lines, in addition to British higher-welfare Co-operative Elmwood turkeys, up 25%, and white wines showing a 21% increase, boosted by fine and exclusive lines.

Peter Marks, group chief executive for The Co-operative Group, said: “These results represent an encouragingly good performance in the very competitive markets in which we operate and in continuing difficult economic times. Against the backdrop of financial pressures on household budgets, our focus on quality and value and the fact that our food stores are located within communities struck a chord with customers.

“The food sales growth in December comes on the back of an improving LFL trend throughout the second half of the year. It is thanks to the hard work and outstanding customer service of all of our colleagues that these trading results have been achieved.”

Total gross sales for the trading businesses were up 3.1% on the corresponding four-week period last year, with the group’s online electrical business up by 18.4%.