Asda has stepped up its plans to increase the number of jewellery departments in its stores after record Christmas sales. The multiple intends to raise the number from 10 to 100 by the end of the year and plans a further 50 by 2004. Asda reckons that 20% of its annual jewellery sales were made in the four weeks before Christmas and that, in the seven days to December 25, they tripled normal levels. Gems and diamond sales accounted for 15%. Asda head of speciality David Miles said: "Jewellery sales have consistently doubled expectations." Asda opened its first jewellery department at Horwich, near Bolton, in June, selling items ranging from 9ct gold jewellery for £3 to solitaire diamond rings at £499. l Asda has cut 10% off 100 lines in its Essentially George clothes collection, predicting that its George range would achieve £1bn sales by the end of the year. The group said like-for-like clothing sales rose 30% through November and December. {{NEWS }}

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