Drinks specialist Majestic Wine has posted a profits rise despite a sales fall last year.

More customers bought from the retailer in the period and average spend held level, while there was a managed reduction in wholesale.

Majestic recorded a £500,000 increase in pre-tax profits to £23.7m in the year to April 1. Total sales fell 2.1% to £274.4m and UK stores delivered a like-for-like advance of 1%.

The number of customers who made purchases last year rose by 56,000 to 624,000 and the average spend was the same as the previous year at £128.

Online sales rose 14.7% to account for 11.1% of UK retail sales. Sixteen shops opened over the year.

Majestic Wine chief executive Steve Lewis said: “Majestic is in excellent shape and has made good progress with the four key elements of our future growth strategy: new stores, business customers, ecommerce and fine wine.”

The retailer said that performance in the new financial year is in line with internal expectations but that “as anticipated the year has started slowly, reflecting the timing of Easter and the boost given to last year from the Jubilee celebrations”.

Panmure analyst Philip Dorgan said: “The current trading statement is actually reassuring, with sales volatile but good control of margins and costs.

“We believe that Majestic has significant market share opportunity as it builds on its position as the UK’s preeminent specialist wine retailer.”