Wal-Mart has reported a strong performance from Asda with "double digit" sales growth in the year to January 31 and an even higher profit growth.
Asda's like-for-like sales growth for the year, excluding petrol, was in the "low double digits". When petrol was taken into account they were in the "high single digits", the US company said at its annual results presentation.
Asda's food sales were in the high single digits with a particularly strong performance in fresh food, but the best performing categories were general merchandising and George clothing.
General merchandising sales "increased in the mid-20s", with electricals, entertainment and homewares the best performers.
Wal-Mart said George continued to trade very strongly and had a successful Christmas. Sales growth in the year was in the "mid-20s" and over the past two years the proportion of Asda customers shopping at George had doubled to more than 30%.
Wal-Mart said Asda had attracted an additional 800,000 customers a week in the year, taking the total number of weekly customers to 9.4 million. It also claimed Asda's prices were 12.8% lower than the market average.
Asda has announced a £360m expansion programme for 2003, creating 3,900 new jobs. It includes opening 10 new stores, the relocation of a further three existing stores and the extension of five sites already in operation.
Three stores will be extended by adding mezzanine floors, which can be accessed by shoppers with trolleys on specially designed travelators'.
Total sales for the Wal-Mart empire were $244.5bn for the year, an increase of 12.3% on the previous year. Profits were up 20.5% to £8bn.