Food wholesaler and retailer Booker has reported a 10% rise in half-year pre-tax profits amid plans to further bolster its retail business.

Food wholesaler and retailer Booker has reported a 10% rise in half-year pre-tax profits despite the “challenging” trading environment.

  • Booker half-year pre-tax profits rise 10% to £74.1m
  • Like-for-like sales excluding tobacco edge up 0.6%
  • Group vows to “further develop” Londis and Budgens following acquisition
  • Booker also aims to grow Family Shopper fascia to 300 stores

The group said pre-tax profits hit £74.1m for 24 weeks to September 11, as like-for-like sales excluding tobacco edged up 0.6%. Like-for-likes including tobacco fell 3.7%.

Booker said operating profit also grew 10% during the period to £75m on sales of £2.2bn. Internet sales jumped 11% to £461m.

It added that trading in the first four weeks of the second half of its financial year was “ahead of the same period last year” following the completion of a £40m deal to acquire convenience specialists Londis and Budgens.

But the retailer and wholesaler warned: “We anticipate that the challenging consumer and market environment will persist through the coming year and the UK’s food market remains very competitive.”

It forecast that Londis and Budgens would dent its full-year operating profits by £3m, mainly due to transaction fees, including stamp duty, of £2.3m. The c-store chains are poised to make a £5m contribution to profits in the year ending March 2017.  

Despite the impact of acquiring the stores from Musgrave, Booker said it remains “on track” to deliver a full-year profit in line with expectations.

Retail plans

It pledged to press ahead with plans to offer “even better choice, prices and service” to its customers across its retail business, which also includes 3,203 shops under the Premier Stores fascia and 47 Family Shopper “local discount stores”.

Booker said it plans to grow that chain to 300 branches during the next three years and “further develop” the Londis and Budgens fascias as it continues to bolster its retail presence.

Chief executive Charles Wilson said: “This was a solid performance and our plan to focus, drive and broaden the business remains on track.

“Despite the challenges in the UK grocery market we continue to improve choice, prices and service for our retail and catering customers.

“We are delighted that Londis and Budgens have joined Booker and we look forward to growing with our customers.”