Like-for-like food sales rose 2.2% over Christmas at The Co-operative Group.

Total food sales rose 2.4% in the three weeks to 5 January. In the final 13 weeks of the year, total food sales rose 0.6%, or by 0.3% on a like-for-like basis.

The figures mark a return to growth for the society, whose sales have been struggling for some time.

The society said its c-stores did particularly well over Christmas, notching up like-for-like growth of 5.5%, while Christmas Eve was its busiest day with takings of more than £35m.

Top sellers were own-label party food, up 53%, chilled ethnic party food (38%) and chilled seasonal desserts (32%).

“These results represent a really encouraging and resilient performance in some of the most testing trading conditions for 40 years and build on a good result achieved over the same period last year,” said outgoing CEO Peter Marks.

“Against a difficult economic environment, customers were keen to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with their friends and family,” he added.

“By continuing to focus on quality and value, The Co-op, with our stores conveniently located in their communities, helped them do just that.”