Arts and crafts retailer HobbyCraft is heading for its “best ever year” as the trend for low-cost family activities continues to grow.

In the 35 weeks to October 25 like-for-like sales were ahead 9% and it expects sales to continue to be strong in the run-up to Christmas. Total sales were up 22%.

HobbyCraft chief executive Chris Crombie said that people taking up cheap activities at home was helping to push up sales. “We are continuing to trade ahead and it looks like it will be our best ever year,” said Crombie.

He added: “Like many we cast a cautionary eye to the fourth quarter, but so far we are seeing no softening.”

He said that best-sellers included HobbyCraft’s make-your-own wedding stationery range, up 56% like-for-like, and cupcake-making products are up 86%. 

He said the launch of an in-store magazine has helped sales because it provides money-off coupons, giving shoppers another reason to return to the store.

HobbyCraft offers 35,000 product lines in stores and the retailer said that its internet offer, which launched a year ago, will slowly build up to the same number of lines online.

In the year to February 22 turn-over grew 10% to £68.7m and pre-tax profits climbed 67% to £5.4m. It ended the year with £2.4m of net cash.

HobbyCraft now employs more than 1,600 staff across 38 stores. It plans in the medium term to grow to a 180-store chain, and sites are being sought nationwide.

Crombie said: “The HobbyCraft model is resilient as the figures show. I want to roll this out prudently across the UK.”

This month former Radley chief executive Roger Best was appointed as a non-executive director. Crombie said that Best’s “proven record in businesses with strong brands” meant that he could
really help the retailer move its brand forward.