Specialist retailer Majestic Wine revealed like-for-like sales jumped 1.1% across Christmas in a “challenging” market.

The wine retailer posted total sales up 5.1% across the seven weeks to December 31, 2012.

Online sales rose 15% in the period, up from an average of 10% during the year. Majestic Wine chief executive Steve Lewis said that its 11-year-old online operation is profitable and that its peak trading day online was December 10.

The retailer said 50% of sales are pre-ordered with the a large proportion of orders conduted online. Lewis said: “Wherever you look online is critical to the future success of retailers.”

The Christmas performance means like-for-likes for the first 39 weeks of the financial year were 0.8%.

Lewis said: “While we saw encouraging sales growth over the period, the Christmas trading season was challenging with many consumers leaving their shopping until the very last moment.”

The retailer’s busiest trading day was December 22 while its two stores in France recorded a peak in sales in November and early December as Majestic’s middle class shoppers increasingly use the Eurotunnel to access cheap alcohol.

Lewis said: “Christmas is increasingly a December story rather than November and December. We planned for that and quite like the short confined Christmas, it means that your staff are not exhausted by your peak trading period. Previously staff would be exhausted and stores run ragged.”

Lewis said the outlook for the business in 2013 was more positive than last year. “We clearly saw a dampening effect of the Olympics and Paralympics. They were a triumph for the UK but the potential to trade against those weak like-for-likes in July and August, as well as the fact we didn’t have a summer last year.”