Primark has reported sales 19% ahead of last year in its first quarter for the 16 weeks to January 2.

The value fashion retailer said trading was strong and ahead of expectations. It said it reflected the increase in retail selling space, and “very good” like-for-like growth particularly in Spain and the UK.

It did, however, say sales in Ireland have suffered with the effects of the tough economic recession.

Since last year Primark has opened five new stores – Cambridge and Wood Green in the UK, Frankfurt in Germany, Porto in Portugal and its first store in Belgium in Liege. It also reopened its store in Waterford in Ireland with an extension.

Primark said gross margin has seen some reduction as a result of the higher cost of goods sourced in US dollars.

Overall, Primark parent Associated British Foods said group revenue was up 17% or 11% at constant exchange rates.

The group said its trading for the period is ahead of expectations but there remains some uncertainty over the pace of the economic recovery and the outlook for the UK consumer.