Sales at McColl’s Retail Group (MCLS) rose 2.7% in its final quarter – and 3.1% in the full year – driven by the acquisitions of new stores.

However, like-for-like sales have continued to fall at the newsagent and convenience group. The pre-close trading statement for the 13 and 52 week periods ended 29 November revealed that l-f-l numbers slipped 1.8% in the quarter – a 0.5% improvement on the previous three months – and 1.9% in the full year.

Outgoing CEO James Lancaster said: “I am delighted to report significant progress on our strategic initiatives for the financial year, continuing our expansion into convenience and capturing further market share.

“Whilst the sector continues to be challenging, total company like-for-like sales improved in the quarter, and have held up well in our developed convenience stores over the course of the year. We therefore expect results to be in line with the board’s expectations for the year.”

Performance in the premium convenience and food and wine estate was down by 0.6% on a like-for-like basis in the year, with standard convenience and newsagents down by 4%. McColl’s added it validated the group’s strategy of focusing on the convenience sector – with the sale of 100 of its newsagents in October following a portfolio review.

McColl’s acquired 60 new convenience stores, and 45 food and wine conversions were completed during the year, taking the total number of convenience stores to 893. It is on track to hit its target of 1,000 sites by end of 2016.

The food-to-go offering was also extended in 148 shops in the period, with the introduction of coffee and snacking modules in 115 sites and the installation of 33 “full food-to-go modules”. It also opened its first Subway franchise during the quarter, in an existing petrol forecourt site in Tamworth, with “encouraging early results”.

Shares in McColl’s opened 0.5% down at 136.4 as the City responded to the like-for-like drops.