Majestic Wine has posted a 20% rise in half-year profits as its customer base continues to grow.

The wine warehouse defied a tough market to report pre-tax profits of £8.8m for the 26 weeks ending September 26.

Total sales were up 8.7% to £127.8m while like-for-like sales in UK retail stores rose 2.7% excluding VAT.

However, in the first six weeks of the second half to November 7 growth has slowed.

Like-for-like sales through UK stores were down 1.1%, adversely affected by two weeks of “disappointing” sales in mid-October, according to Chairman Phil Wrigley. Total sales through UK stores over the same period were up 3.8%.

The number of customers registered on the company’s database who made purchases in the last twelve months was up by 7.7% to 534,000.

Chief executive Steve Lewis said he was “very pleased” with the figures and that Majestic is “very well prepared for the important Christmas trading period”.

Half year online sales increased 8.7% on last year and now represent 9% of UK retail sales. Eight new stores opened in the 26-week period and three since the end of September bringing the total number of stores to 174.

Wrigley said: “The average spend per transaction at our stores has risen to £125 from £122 and the average bottle price of still wine purchased at Majestic is now £7.13, up from £6.67 last year. 

“We are encouraged that our proposition built on the strength of our product range and excellent customer service continues to attract new customers to Majestic.”