Britain's biggest supermarket chain Tesco today (16 June) said it has made a "solid start to the financial year" after first quarter like-for-like sales in its UK stores rose 4.3%.

The retailer said the rise was helped by a return to growth at its non-food business, which includes clothing and footwear, with "improved performance across most categories" compared with the second half of last year.

Overall UK sales, excluding petrol, rose by 9.3%, with new stores contributing 2.8% and its Tesco Personal Finance division adding a further 2.2%.

Across the group as a whole, sales for the 13 weeks to 30 May jumped by 12.6%.

Its international operations saw sales increase by 20.1% - or 11.4% at constant exchange rates - helped by a push towards lower prices and new store openings.

European sales were up by 1.9%, while growth in Asia soared by 43.8%, helped by exchange rates and a strong performance at its Homever stores in Korea.

In the US, where Tesco operates the Fresh & Easy chain, sales grew by 174%. 

Chief executive, Terry Leahy said Tesco made a "solid start to the financial year, maintaining good momentum in a challenging economic climate - by investing in our offer for customers and adjusting our businesses well locally to meet their changing needs."

However, industry observers believe the retailer is continuing to lose UK market share to cheaper rivals like Wal-Mart owned Asda and Morrisons.

There has also been a tendency for its customers to switch to cheaper items in its stores, which has hit Tesco's top-line.

Speaking at a conference last week, Sir Terry said retailers should focus on value for money to attract and retain customers if they want to survive and prosper beyond the recession.