Wine Cellar has almost halved its pre-tax loss over the past year following its move into convenience. 

The off-licence chain posted a loss of £769,000 for the year to 27 January in accounts filed at Companies House, down from £1.4m last year. Group sales rose 2.3% to £62.6m and like-for-like sales were up 2%.

The 180-store chain said its new c-store fascia, Simply Food & Drinks, had helped its performance. At year-end, the 27 stores that had adopted the format had achieved year-on-year sales growth of 9%.

“These stores have been much more attractive to local consumers than the traditional off-licence,” the company said. “The company continues to buck the trend of the challenging retail alcohol market. The smoking ban but also the current credit crunch are driving customers to stay at home to socialise.”

The accounts also revealed that Wine Cellar owes wholesaler Palmer & Harvey McLane £3.8m.