Sainsbury’s has notched up a 7% increase in first-quarter like-for-like sales as the retailer reveals plans to raise £445m to accelerate its growth plans.

The UK’s third-largest supermarket chain revealed this morning that total sales had risen by 3.2%, or 7.6% excluding fuel, in the 12 weeks to 13 June.

Chief executive Justin King said the chain was now attracting more than 18.5 million customers a week.

“Product availability and customer service metrics reached new record levels and customers continue to recognise the competitive of our offer,” he said.

“Consumers are spending more cautiously but continue to look to trusted brands to act responsibly on ethical and environmental concerns on their behalf.”

Sainsbury’s also said it had acquired a further nine stores from The Co-operative Group – six supermarkets and three convenience stores – having already acquired 24 stores from the society in March.

Sainsbury’s also announced plans to raise £445m via a placing of new ordinary shares.

“These funds will provide us with the financial flexibility to significantly grow our business further and faster, as we are now planning to grow space by 15% by March 2011,” King said.