• Annual profits inch up despite fall in like-for-likes
  • Like-for-like decline continues into new financial year
  • Enhancements being made to store estate and in-store offer

Convenience store group McColl’s managed to nudge up profits last year, despite reporting a fall in like-for-like sales.

McColl’s also reported that like-for-likes have continued to fall in the new financial year.

However, chief executive James Lancaster – who will soon move to the role of non-executive chairman – said he was confident in prospects as the retailer overhauls its estate and adapts its in-store offer.

McColl’s recorded a 3.1% rise in total sales to £932.2m in the year to November 29, 2015, when operating profit advanced from £22m to £23.6m.

Adjusted for a 53rd week in 2014, operating profit was flat. At a pre-tax level profits rocketed from £12.6m to £21.1m, reflecting exceptional costs incurred in 2014.

Like-for-likes at its premium ‘food and wine’ convenience stores inched down 0.6% over the year, while at its standard c-stores and newsagents the fall was 4%.

In the first quarter of the new year like-for-likes at the premium branches slid 1.1% and the rest of the stores were down 3.1%. Total sales rose 2.7% in the period, when the retailer also opened its 900th c-store.

McColl’s, which is disposing of 100 newsagents, reported that it is on track to meet its target of 1,000 c-stores this year.

McColl’s has been focusing on changes such as improving its food to go offer, including a first Subway franchise, opening in-store Post Offices and introducing alcohol in newsagents.

Lancaster said: “In a challenging market we have grown sales and improved profits, at the same time we continue to deliver on our strategy of evolving our store portfolio.

“Additionally, we will extend and expand the range of products and services we provide to neighbourhoods across the country, at the most convenient times.

“McColl’s is a business that can continue to grow and deliver for customers, colleagues and shareholders.”