Asda has increased its like-for-like sales by 2.2% in the 12 weeks to 31 March 2012.

The supermarket firm, part of US-based retail giant Walmart, said the result, which excluded acquisitions, VAT and fuel, was an acceleration of the 1% reported in the previous quarter in the 14 weeks to 7 January 2012.

Asda’s total sales grew 7.1%, while operating income grew faster than sales, excluding fuel.

Andy Clarke, CEO and president of Asda, said: “I’m proud of the work our stores, depots and teams at Asda House and George House put in during the quarter, to build on our end-of-year momentum and deliver market-leading growth. Customers really valued our price leadership, the ongoing improvements in quality and our commitment to warm and friendly service.”

Sales at the UK’s second-biggest supermarket business have grown faster than all of its main rivals achieving a record market share of just under 18%, according to recent industry data. Like-for-like customer numbers in Q1 2012 were up 2.9% as basket spend increased by 2.1%.

Doug McMillon, president and chief executive of Walmart International, said: “The UK had a strong first quarter, growing sales, and growing operating income faster than sales, excluding fuel. In the first quarter of this year, overall sales grew 7.1% and comparable sales increased 5%, excluding acquisitions and fuel, driven by core growth in grocery and children’s apparel. The comparable sales included a strong first week in January.

“The UK’s gross profit rate, excluding acquisitions, was relatively flat compared to last year. Excluding acquisitions and last year’s pension costs, first quarter expenses as a percentage of sales grew slower than sales. We continue to sell at lower prices by embedding cost-saving programmes in operations."