Primark has revealed that total sales grew in its first quarter, as it continued to open new space across Europe.

In the 16 weeks to January 3 sales at the value fashion retailer increased 18 per cent, driven by new store openings. The retailer added in a statement that it had “very good like-for-like sales growth” over the period.

At the end of the first quarter Primark had 187 stores with over 5.6 million sq ft of selling space. Since its year end Primark has opened six stores in Spain, bringing its total in the country to 12. It also opened two stores in the UK in High Wycombe and Corby and its first store in the Netherlands, in Rotterdam. The retailer said that trading in Rotterdam has “been very encouraging”.

It added that fixed overheads increased during the period as a result of the cost of its new distribution centre at Thrapston.

Despite strong cash flow during the period Primark ended the period with higher sterling net debt as a result of the negative effect of currency on the US dollar and euro. Primark said cash flow benefited from better than forecast working capital and lower capital expenditure, although capital expenditure was higher than last year.

Earlier this week, Primark said it would investigate the allegations that one of its UK suppliers had employed staff working in sweatshop conditions.