LONDON: Like-for-like sales at supermarket chain Tesco increased by 4.9% over the six weeks to January 9th 2010, figures from the UK's largest retailer have shown.

Over the previous quarter, Tesco's like-for-like sales had gained by just 2.8%.

The Finest range was a key driver of growth as Britain's shoppers rediscovered their taste for luxury in the wake of the recession, with the higher-cost goods present in around 25% of Tesco shopping baskets over the six-week period.

Electric goods performed particularly strongly, with the stores' non-food sales growth outpacing that of food at a ratio of two-to-one.

Rival UK supermarkets are also thought to have registered impressive holiday sales, with research firm TNS earmarking Waitrose as the star performer.

The chain, which traditionally services higher-earners but introduced a cheaper Essentials brand early last year in response to the economic downturn, enjoyed sales growth of 17.6% over the four weeks to December 27th, TNS said.

Philip Dorgan, an analyst at Ambrian in London, said the official Tesco results were "mega stonking, beating the consensus by a country mile".

Tesco finance director Laurie McIlwee commented: "When you see signs of non-food business picking up and more upmarket ranges growing faster, these are all good signs of increasing confidence."

Official statistics due out later this month are expected to reveal the UK economy returned to growth during the fourth quarter of 2009, snapping a run of six straight quarters of GDP contraction.

Data sourced from Bloomberg/Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff