The Big Food Group said l ike-for-like sales at Iceland fell 0.2% in the first quarter and would concentrate its refit programme for the frozen food retailer on higher sales at its convenience formats.

For the 13 weeks to June 27 total sales at BFG were down 0.5%, with Booker cash and carry business down 1.2%, while sales at the group['s foodservice arm, Woodward, rose 18.2%.

After adjusting for the later Easter this year, BFG said sales at Iceland fell 1.6% but this was an improvement on the last quarter when the decline was 2.1%.

BFG refurbished 23 Iceland stores in the quarter and now has 62 of its new concept stores with an average rise of 13.2% in like-for-like sales and the programme is concentrating on higher sales of its ‘core plus’ formats.

A further 100 store conversions are planned this year.

Non-tobacco sales rose 1.6% at Booker while tobacco fell 4.5%. But the company said tobacco sales were now responding to a “spend and save” scheme started at the beginning of the year.

BGF chief executive Bill Grimsey said: “Trading in the first quarter has improved on the more positive trends we achieved in the second half of last year.

“The strategic initiatives we are now rolling out across the group in line with our recovery strategy will have a progressive impact and re-enforce this progress.”