Somerfield has announced an acceleration of its store refit programme as it posted an 0.8% rise in first half like-for-like group sales with Somerfield fascias up 0.4% and Kwik Save up 1.3%.

Pre-tax profit for the 28 weeks to November 9 was £12m up from £2.5m, boosted by £8.9m from the disposal of fixed assets, including the sale and leaseback of the company's Wellingborough distribution centre.

Total sales rose from £2.49bn to £2.5bn in the period.

Executive chairman John von Spreckelsen said the period had been challenging with tough market conditions and lower industry growth.

However, in the first 10 weeks of the second half, which includes the critical Christmas trading period, underlying sales growth was up 2.1%.

Refitted Somerfield stores have generated average sales uplifts of 18% in the first year, and 8% in year two, said the company. A further 40 refits are planned in the second half, taking the total to188 out of 590 stores.

Refurbished Kwik Saves stores have achieved sales uplifts ranging from 12% to 60%, with 40 stores earmarked for a makeover in the second half.

On an annualised basis, the So Good premium range is now worth £30m, with a further range extension planned for May. At Kwik Save the product range will be developed with its cheapest range ‘Simply’ launched this week. The Kwik Save own label range will be re-introduced into stores by the end of March 2003.