Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket chain, has highlighted strong online sales as a major benefit during a weak in-store run up to Christmas.

Tesco.com online sales of groceries and household goods grew over 14 per cent in the six weeks to 7 January, compared with the same period a year earlier.

In a statement, the company - long seen as an IT innovator - told investors: "Approaching one million orders were placed with Tesco Direct during the period, of which over two-thirds were collected in store."

Tesco is the latest in a string of retailers to announce that online sales far outperformed growth in store revenues, and that Click and Collect services played a large part.

The news comes as Tesco issued a downbeat statement, revealing that like-for-like overall sales slipped 2.3 percent. After years of reporting growing revenues across stores, today's negative news alarmed investors and sent Tesco shares plummeting 10 percent. Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke said the company was "disappointed with our seasonal trading performance in the UK".

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