Rural specialist Countrywide is to launch a value range to enhance its appeal to shoppers and protect margin during tough trading conditions.

The retailer expects to launch about 100 own-brand Countrywide Value products in key categories such as equestrian over the crucial winter trading period.

Chief executive John Hardman said launching a dedicated value range would safeguard sales and margin on higher priced lines.

He said last year there had been “a bit of migration south” by consumers within the retailer’s good, better, best architecture towards the lower price points, and that the range would help address that. “We mustn’t be forced into discounting our quality product,” he explained.

The 45-store retailer, which sells products such as riding gear and pet supplies, maintained retail profitability and increased sales in the period to May 31.

Countrywide’s retail division posted flat operating profit of £3.6m, which Hardman said was “a significant achievement in a challenging and highly competitive market”. He said cost increases, such as transport, had impacted profits.

Like-for-likes rose 1.3% and total sales advanced 4% to £79m. The retailer has been refurbishing stores and promoting its specialist credentials to draw customers, and there are now 75,000 members of its loyalty scheme.

Hardman said Countrywide would continue to invest in store improvements and staff training.

Countrywide bought specialist equestrian retailer Town and Country Supplies last year and Hardman is interested in more deals.

He said: “We continue to seek opportunities to grow the business through a combination of new store openings and acquisitions.”

At group level Countrywide posted a record operating profit of £4m, helped by the performance of its agricultural supplies arm. Group sales rose 10% to £226.3m.

Chairman Nigel Hall, a former Arcadia finance director, said he was delighted with the performance but cautioned: “Trading conditions in all our markets are expected to remain challenging, with renewed uncertainty as to the course of economic recovery.”