January 9, 2017 / 9:13 AM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 1-Aldi UK says December sales up 15 pct year on year

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LONDON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Aldi, the German-owned discount supermarket, saw sales at its British business rise over 15 percent in December compared to the same month in 2015, boosted by strong demand for its higher end products and low-priced festive vegetables.

Aldi said a 27 percent rise in sales across its "Specially Selected" range of premium products, which it expanded to compete with upmarket retailers such as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, drove its record Christmas performance.

It said that outcome was also helped by strong sales of Christmas dinner essentials, particularly 19 pence packs of vegetables, such as carrots, sprouts and parsnips, and the sale of 13.5 million bottles of wine, champagne and Prosecco.

"We start 2017 in confident mood," Chief Executive Matthew Barnes said on Monday.

Aldi, along with fellow German discounter Lidl, has won UK market share from bigger rivals Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons but saw slower sales growth through 2016 as Britain's major supermarkets cut their prices and generally raised their game.

Aldi will open its 700th store next month and remains on course to achieve its target of 1,000 UK stores by 2022.

Last week the firm said it will increase minimum wages for its British employees by 1.5 percent next month.

Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco will all report Christmas figures this week.

While all are expected to report solid trading, investor concern about a potential squeeze on consumer spending in 2017 means the focus will be on their outlooks. (Reporting by James Davey; editing by Sarah Young and Paul Sandle)

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