Wal-Mart showed how tough the UK market was yesterday by revealing stagnating sales at Asda.

As well as flat sales, Wal-Mart said the market share of the UK's second-largest grocer remained unchanged during the three months to October 31.

The announcement came as the group announced plans to recruit nearly 3,000 staff across the UK, including 150 in the North-East and North Yorkshire, where it has 19 stores.

Asda spokesman Nick Agarwal said the sales performance was better than that of many rival chains and followed a "broadly flat" performance in previous months.

Mr Agarwal said: "Some people out there would give their eye teeth for that sort of performance. Economically, it's tougher than it was out there."

Asda was still far outstripped by market leader Tesco, which recently reported a 6.7 per cent rise in sales after ignoring the impact of store openings and closures.

Asda was also dealt a blow last month when figures from market research company TNS Superpanel showed its share of the market fell from 16.9 per cent to 16.7 per cent, leaving it trailing further behind Tesco.

Yesterday's figures showed Asda gaining from the addition of 31 stores so far this year, including 23 food stores, four George high street sites and four out-of-town Asda Living stores.

Parent company Wal-Mart reported a 3.8 per cent rise in net income to $2.37bn for the same period.

The profits gain was its smallest since 2001 after the company was hit by soaring energy costs and hurricanes, which temporarily closed stores.

Asda is due to open an import centre at Teesport, in March, creating hundreds of jobs.