That was better than the City had expected and the company's shares, which had been weak during December, rose 3.5p to 31p.
The Christmas performance was driven by Sterling, the group's US jewellery chain, where like-for-like sales rose 19 per cent.
In Britain, sales in December rose 6 per cent, although the 100- strong Ratners chain only managed to hold sales at the level attained last year.
The best performance was produced by Ernest Jones, which targets the top end of the jewellery market and where sales increased by 12 per cent.
Meanwhile H Samuel, the middle-market brand, managed a 5 per cent increase.
The group said that its US business should show a 'significant' increase in operating profits from the pounds 20.2m achieved last year.
The UK operation, which lost pounds 27.9m last time, should be close to break-even. That is despite continued losses at Salisbury, its luggage chain, where like-for-like sales dropped 24 per cent.
The group is experimenting with new formats for Ratners. James McAdam, chairman, said Equa, which is being tested in three outlets, is performing well.
Whitbread said that December sales were ahead of last year, despite a slow start. Food sales rose 11 per cent in its Inns operation, while sales through its off-licences were also strong.
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