Kitchenware retailer Steamer Trading Cookshop has defied dire trading conditions to reveal a lift in full-year profits.

In the year to December 31, underlying pre-tax profits came in at £1.2m, compared with £1m, excluding a one-off exceptional gain, in the previous year. In the 2008 year it reported an underlying operating profit surge of 45 per cent to £1.5m. Total sales at the 18-store mid-to-high-end retailer rocketed 17 per cent to £10.9m.

Managing director Ben Phillips said the retailer’s strong performance is due to its investment in service standards, as well as its relatively small-ticket product offer.

He said: “I’m very glad we’re selling cookware and not fitted kitchens or anything that relies on people moving house. We’re in a nice place, but we’re not recession proof.”

Current trading has continued the positive trend, with like-for-likes up 2 per cent in the five months to May 31. Phillips said: “We’ve consistently recorded unbroken growth in profits and turnover, and it’s nice it has continued in a fundamentally tough market. We’re expecting 2009 sales to be significantly up on 2008, but I don’t think we’re seeing green shoots yet.”

He added that there are “lots of initiatives in place to achieve growth”, including improving staff development, customer service standards and visual merchandising.

The retailer will open stores in Bury St Edmunds and Saffron Walden next month, as well as a 7,500 sq ft flagship store in Guildford in November. Phillips said Steamer Trading Cookshop is on track to have 30 stores by 2011.

All stores are located in the South, but Phillips said he is “actively looking” at sites in the North.