Alliance Boots expects its “strong fun gifts” range to lift sales this Christmas and is confident of grabbing market share in the festive period.

The health and beauty group’s finance director George Fairweather said: “Last year was difficult for retailers because of the snow but we’re confident the Boots business will perform well, and continue in the same vein as our first half.”

Alliance Boots reported sales at its health and beauty division rose 2% to £3.6m in the first half to

September 30. On a constant currency basis, sales were up by 1.8% or 0.3% on a like-for-like basis. At Boots UK, like-for-like sales advanced 1.8% and like-for-like dispensing volume was up 4.1%.

Fairweather expects Boots to perform well in healthcare with the onset of the “cold and flu season”, and in gifts across “core beauty, No7, and perfume”. He said gifts such as its Fearne Cotton cosmetics range and Strictly Come Dancing toiletries were “fun, people will enjoy receiving them, and they’re not necessarily high-ticket items”.

He said while next year would be “challenging”, the group intended to “continue to drive efficiencies, and focus on fantastic value and customer service”.

He said the decision to axe about 900 non-store roles in the UK by 2014 was part of an efficiency drive to reduce operating costs by about £56m a year. He said: “We’re doing our best to try to redeploy roles to other parts of the business.”

Fairweather said partnerships with Waitrose and Mothercare were “performing well”. Boots also launched Treat Street in October, as revealed by Retail Week, enabling Boots Advantage Card customers to collect points when they shop online with 50 other brands. Fairweather said the launch had been “well received” by its shoppers.

Boots launched its Christmas ad campaign this week, evolving its ‘Here Come the Girls’ campaign.

Alliance Boots’ group sales climbed 6%, or 6.6% in constant currency. Sales at the wholesale division were up 7.7% or 8.7% in constant currency.