Value fashion and homewares chain Primark’s first-half sales were “substantially ahead” of last year, parent Associated British Foods reported.

Primark’s like-for-like sales rose 8%, while the retailer’s overall sales were driven by an increase in selling space and an “exceptionally strong performance” from the 14 Spanish shops.

The retailer reported that there had been “some reduction” in gross margin during the first quarter as a result of the higher costs of product sourced in dollars, but that the strengthening of sterling against the dollar helped in the second quarter. “The impact of these movements on operating profit margins was mitigated, in part, by higher volumes,” the retailer reported.

Primark, which will have 196 shops at the end of February, intends to open another six in the second half, three of which will be in Spain.

Primark recently agreed to buy 10 stores from Bhs which will open in the next financial year.