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McColl’s Retail Group (MCLS) has reported a 19.1% uplift in annual sales following the acquisition of 298 Co-op convenience stores, but like-for-like growth tailed off towards the end of the year.

Like-for-like sales for the full year to 28 November were up 0.1%, with McColl’s experiencing “significant mix improvements” as a result of growth in key grocery categories alongside declining traditional categories.

Like-for-like sales in convenience stores were up 0.1% in the full year, but slid 0.2% in newsagents. In newly converted stores, like-for-like sales were up 2.4%.

Fourth quarter like-for-like sales slipped 1.1% due to “declining traditional categories and unfavourable weather”.

A total of 25 convenience store refreshes were completed in the second half of the year, bringing the total to 27, with a further 100 planned in 2018.

Chief executive Jonathan Miller commented: “I am delighted to report another strong quarter of revenue growth. For the first time the business has achieved annual revenues of more than £1bn, boosted by our transformational acquisition of 298 high quality convenience stores last year, demonstrating that this is now a business of real scale.

“McColl’s is well positioned to continue to take advantage of the growing convenience market, with clear opportunities to enhance organic growth across our estate, as well as continued expansion through our acquisition programme.

“As we look ahead to next year, we will focus on delivering an enhanced customer offer in over 1,300 stores through the groundbreaking wholesale partnership we signed with Morrisons, which will see us launch hundreds of Safeway branded products, exclusively in McColl’s from January 2018.

“We will also extend our successful convenience store refresh programme to 100 more stores next year. Customer feedback remains very positive and the early performance of refreshed stores has delivered significant increases in footfall and sales, and increased uptake of higher margin convenience categories, including fresh and chilled food.”

McColl’s also said it was “sad and disappointed” to learn long-time partner Palmer and Harvey had been placed in administration.

It said its “priority is to minimise any potential impact on customers” and the group is in discussions with our supply chain partners, and manufacturers, with a contingency plan already in place to ensure continuity of supply to the around 700 newsagents and smaller convenience stores, previously supplied by P&H.

Late on Friday Nisa announced it had made an agreement to provide a new short term supply contract to McColl’s.

McColl’s has fallen 3.1% to 281.1p so far this morning.

Morning update

Unilever has announced the completion of its €5bn share buyback programme instigated in the aftermath of the failed Kraft Heinz bid for the Anglo Dutch group. Between 19 May and 1 December it repurchased 50,250,099 Unilever N.V. shares and 51,692,284 Unilever PLC shares.

The FTSE 100 has opened the week up 0.8% to 7,358.5pts as the passing of Donald Trump’s tax bill in the US late on Friday has boosted global markets.

Early risers include Associated British Foods (ABF), up 2% to 2,928p, Worldpay Group (WPG) up 1.7% to 431p, Total Produce (TOT), up 1.5% to 230p and Coca-Cola HBC (CCH), up 1.4% to 2,360.5p.

Amongst the early fallers are Hilton Food Group (HFG), down 1.2% to 839.6p, Greene King (GNK), down 0.9% to 516.1p and Ocado (OCDO), down 0.7% to 360.8p.

This week in the City

The City has firmly entered wind-down mode ahead of the festive season, with very few items of note in the diary this week.

In addition to McColl’s this morning, the only other sector results scheduled for this week are from consumer goods packaging firm DS Smith (SMDS), which releases its half year results on Thursday.

Associated British Foods is holding its annual shareholders meeting on Friday in London.

The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales for November are out tomorrow morning and The Grocer Price Index measure of grocery inflation will be published on Friday.