Asda has reported that customers trading up and treating themselves over Christmas led to strong sales upticks in its fourth quarter.

The grocer said like-for-like sales increased 5.1% in the 12 weeks to December 31 and jumped 6.9% in the crucial eight weeks to December 24.

The retailer said this growth was driven by “a notable shift in shopping behaviour with customers trading up and spending more on premium categories at Christmas to treat themselves after a difficult year”.

Demand for premium Asda lines in meat, fish and poultry categories spiked in December with sales up 30% year on year. 

Asda said it experienced strong online growth during the period with combined net sales for and increasing by 76% year on year.

Like many grocers, Asda spent much of last year looking to increase online delivery capacity in response to the pandemic and the retailer said much of its online growth was due to the 90% extra capacity it had added since March 2020. 

Asda chief executive Roger Burnley said: “Our focus on keeping prices low, providing great quality products and keeping customers safe when they visit our stores was key to delivering a strong performance across the quarter and particularly during the busy Christmas period. 

“The festive season was like no other and I am proud of the way Asda colleagues responded to the exceptional circumstances they faced. It was only right that we recognised their hard work by closing our stores on Boxing Day so the vast majority of them could spend more time with their family during this period.”

The retailer also pushed ahead with in-store partnerships with Accessorize and B&Q, and extended existing tie-ups with MusicMagpie, Claire’s Accessories and Decathlon.

Asda’s parent company Walmart reported strong quarterly sales growth of 8.6% and ecommerce revenue growth of 69%. 

Walmart flagged that Asda’s decision to repay business rates relief in the UK contributed to overall Covid-19 related costs in excess of $1.1bn (£789m) during the fourth quarter.

The results come just days after EG Group co-founders the Issa brothers said that barring any late intervention from the Competition and Markets Authority, the £6.8bn deal to acquire a majority stake in Asda had been completed.