McColl’s Retail Group chief executive James Lancaster believes the retailer’s convenience-led strategy has been vindicated despite reporting a 1.9% fall in like-for-like sales for the 26 weeks to 31 May.

Total sales grew 3.4% to £459.3m as McColl’s recorded profits before tax of £7.6m compared with a loss of £4m for the same period a year ago.

Like-for-likes at its 664 food and wine and premium c-stores were flat, while its newsagents and standard c-stores saw like-for-likes fall 4.7%.

“I am pleased to report a solid financial performance in what has been a very challenging period for the sector,” said Lancaster. “Over the past 12 months we have continued to make good progress in our strategic objectives and focused on improving our range and offer, increasing our store base and streamlining the business.”

Lancaster said flat sales in its premium c-stores were largely down to deflation, and as inflation came back performance would improve.

He also revealed McColl’s had added a focussed range of alcohol into 100 of its newsagents. “We are happy with how this has gone but are pausing now to assess it more fully.”