Agricultural retailer Countrywide has broken into first half profit after investing in lowering prices and improving stores.

The rural products retailer reported a profit of £500,000 in the first half to November 30, up from a £1.2m loss last year.

Group sales jumped 12% to £138.8m from £123.4m last year following strong store growth and new dairy customers in its agricultural supplies arm.

The retailer also recorded a 5% increase in like-for-like sales in the period.

Chairman Nigel Hall said: “We are pleased with these results in what is traditionally our weaker trading half and I fully expect end of year results to be well ahead of last year. This progress reflects significant effort by the business in repositioning our retail offer and investing in our core agriculture business.   

“Retail in particular has responded well with a like-for-like sales increase of 5%, a tremendous result in a competitive and challenging market place. Our store ranges and pricing strategy have been reviewed to better meet the needs of farming customers.”

He added: “We believe our retail operational standards are industry leading and by making these changes we now have the best platform for growth in the sector.”

The retailer last year invested £2m in lowering prices, developed a new store design with new flooring and merchandising and secured £26m to support organic growth, a store refit programme and potential acquisitions from HSBC.