Value fashion retailer Primark’s like-for-likes are expected to soar 7% in its first half to March 2 thanks to weak comparatives and “good trading” over Christmas.

The retailer, owned by Associated British Foods, said sales were “exceptionally strong” in the first half and are expected to rocket 23% against last year, or 25% up in constant currency.

Primark added substantialy to itsl retail selling space and benefitted from superior sales densities in larger new stores.

Retail selling space increased by 0.7m sq. ft over the period. At the end of the first half the retailer expects to be trading from 257 stores, after opening 15 new stores in the period, including its second store on Oxford Street.

The pace of store openings will not continue in the second half, the retailer said, but will pick up again in the next financial year.

Primark’s operating profit margin was “much higher” than the comparable period, reflecting lower cotton prices and better trading.

It expects no further benefit from lower cotton prices in the second half.

Owner Associated British Food said its interims will be ahead of expectations, with adjusted operating profit higher than last year driven by the “outstanding performance” of Primark