Tesco had a record Christmas (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

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Tesco has set new records for Christmas sales, including delivering 7million food orders as customers stocked up on festive essentials.

The chain said a surge in Christmas food shopping has driven "strong" recent sales which are expected to help offset soaring coronavirus costs.

That's despite the supermarket saying it's now implementing tighter restrictions on customer numbers in stores.

The retailer said group like-for-like sales increased by 6.1% over the 19 weeks to January 9, as it was particularly buoyed by 8.1% growth during the final six weeks of the period.

Tesco said online sales grew by more than 80% over the 19 weeks, as staff delivered more than seven million Christmas orders.

It added that its large stores have seen sales grow strongly as customers favour bigger but less frequent shopping trips.

However, it now expects the pandemic to cost it £810million this year, with the increased severity of the virus in recent months causing it to increase its previous prediction by £85million.

The group also said its "comprehensive preparations and our strong relationships with suppliers" have allowed it to maintain strong levels of availability during the Brexit transition period.

Tesco said people were buying more per trip
(Image: SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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Chief executive Ken Murphy said: "Our focus on looking after our customers, including delivering record availability, robust safety measures and great value, has enabled us to maintain strong momentum through the Christmas period, outperforming the market every week.

"We delivered a record Christmas across all of our formats and channels.

"Our colleagues went above and beyond, rising to every challenge in the most exceptional of circumstances and I thank every one of them for this.

"We're in great shape to keep delivering in 2021 and beyond."

Tesco added that food sales were driven by a 14% increase in sales of Finest products as customers treated themselves in a heavily restricted Christmas.

Tesco also pointed to offers including its festive 5 vegetable offer, '3 for 2' party food and 25% off 6+ bottles of wine deals.

General merchandise sales also grew by 4% driven by strong performance in toys, home and electrical items.  

"We are committed to delivering great value at a time when our customers need us most," Tesco said.

"Since we launched Aldi Price Match in March, our value perception has increased by +450 basis points and we are now the most competitive we have been against the entire market in nearly a decade."