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ELECTRONICS distributor Premier Farnell yesterday revealed that conditions in its global markets remained challenging, as customers continued to act cautiously.

The Leeds-based group said sales per day returned to year on year growth of 2.8 per cent, thanks to strong sales of Raspberry Pi, the new credit card sized computer, and its associated products.

Excluding sales of Raspberry Pi, group sales fell 0.6 per cent year on year, compared with the fourth quarter year on year decline of 6.4 per cent.

Group sales increased 5.7 per cent during the group’s first quarter covering the three months to May 5.

Its active customer base grew 2.0 per cent year on year, excluding the benefit of Raspberry Pi, which was attributed to the group’s focus on service.

Chief executive Laurence Bain said: “We are pleased that our actions to enhance our proposition and drive sales have enabled the group to return to positive growth in the first quarter.

“However, current market conditions remain challenging with indicators still weak in all our global markets.

“We continue to enhance our customer proposition as we invest in inventory, systems and our multichannel sales strategy, starting with our new global web platform which is currently being implemented in North America.

“We remain confident in our ability to implement our strategic vision, and optimise the business performance to grow our active customer base, gain market share and drive financial performance.”

Academics at Cambridge University’s computer laboratory developed the Raspberry Pi to give young people access to cheap, programmable computers, after they became concerned about declining standards among computer science students.

The Raspberry Pi plugs into a TV and keyboard and can be used in a similar way to a desktop PC.

Early adopters in Yorkshire say that the £30 credit card-sized computer creates a platform for innovation in education and industry, and could be help to reinvigorate the region’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Element 14, which is part of the Premier Farnell group, has sold more than a million devices to customers in 65 countries since the launch last year. Users can develop their own software for a range of applications.