Discount retail group B&M European Value reported an annual sales jump of over 10% this week, but concerns swirled in the City over the rate of growth slipping back in its final quarter despite a boost from the early Easter.

The B&M Bargains owner posted group revenues of £5.5bn in the year to 30 March, up 10.1% year on year. The retailer attributed its performance to volume growth and like-for-like sales improvements, plus an extra week of trading and an early Easter.

Full-year B&M UK sales were up 8.5% to £4.4bn, up from 4% growth in 2023, while B&M France was up 19.2% to £514m and Heron Foods up 15.3% to £560m.

On a quarterly basis, B&M UK was up 2.9% in the 14 weeks to 30 March, which it put down to “strong volume performance” across both fmcg and general merchandise. However, that figure represented a step back from full-year like-for-like sales growth of 3.7%, which was aided by increased customer transaction numbers.

Headline sales were helped by the opening of 47 new B&M UK stores, two ahead of previous guidance. The branches were “trading well”, including Wilko stores acquired in the year, which were “performing ahead of expectations”.

Full-year group adjusted EBITDA is expected to be at the top end of guidance at £629m – a 9.8% year-on-year increase and 83.9% higher than pre-Covid 2020.

“The demise of Wilko should have benefited B&M as a key competitor was removed from the market,” commented AJ Bell head of financial analysis Danni Hewson. ““The jury is still out as recent performance has been disappointing. Even with the Easter boost, fourth-quarter UK like-for-like sales growth of 2.9% looks pedestrian. It implies the company is finding it harder to keep churning out the success that has made it one of the big retail winners over the past decade.”

However, a more positive Liberum noted B&M’s continued strong growth in DIY and petcare, which contrasts with recent reporting from market leaders in these sectors. The outperformance highlighted “B&M’s continued market share gains driven by its store rollout and disruptive value proposition”, it said.

Peel Hunt also suggested any gloom around performance was overdone. “The shares have been weak into these numbers and therefore should be at least reassured by the outcome. This is an interesting equity story: the potency of the new space that B&M is able to open is something that we believe the market has not factored into the valuation.”

B&M shares fell 2.1% on the update to 500p, but had rebounded to 517.6p by Thursday lunchtime. The shares remain down 7.6% so far in 2024.