Asda this morning claimed it had enjoyed a strong Christmas, with 1.3 million more shoppers being served in the week before Christmas and a record trading day on December 23.

In the week before Christmas, eight stores recorded sales of over£4 million compared to six in 2007, and 47 managed over£3 million compared to 41 the year before.

Chief executive Andy Bond confirmed that the Christmas sales rush had arrived late, and said adults concentrated on buying "practical presents" such as slippers and dressing gowns for each other while still spending on their children.

He said food held up better than non-food with sales of the Extra Special range up 50 per cent and of locally produced food up 100 per cent.

Bond confirmed that Northern Ireland - which has benefitted from shoppers from the Republic coming across the border to capitalise on the weakness of the pound - showed the strongest growth. Asda's Enniskillen and Strabane stores were its fastest growing in the week running up to Christmas.