Chinese food retailer Lianhua is ramping up its store expansion with plans to open 400 this year following a surge in profits.

The retailer opened 256 shops in its first half and said that it had set a new record for same-store sales growth on the back of a rapidly expanding economy and voracious consumer demand.

Profits for the six months to June 30 soared 44.2 per cent, to Yn262 million (£20.5 million), with like-for-like sales up 13 per cent against the previous year.

Lianhua said that its hypermarket business had been particularly strong in the first half and that it was accelerating the development of this division. In July, Lianhua general manager Liang Wei said that plans are in place to open up to 15 hypermarkets a year.

The retailer operates from 3,848 outlets, which includes just 121 hypermarkets. However, hypermarkets account for close to 60 per cent of the group’s business. Lianhua has 1,768 supermarkets, with the balance of its portfolio being convenience stores.

Robert Gregory, retail analyst at Planet Retail, said: “Its original intention was to expand a lot more rapidly than proved to be the case. Expansion proved a lot harder than it imagined.

“These figures indicate that the pace is picking up and it appears to be back on track with their expansion programme.”

Lianhua has also enhanced the operational capabilities in some stores to upgrade service and the in-store experience. The grocer said that the trial, which it has dubbed a “strong outlet” strategy, has been positive and these stores have substantially outperformed other branches. This strategy is now being incorporated into all new stores.

Lianhua continues to concentrate its activities in the key Yangtze River Delta, an area that accounts for more than 80 per cent of the retailer’s sales.