Majestic Wine

Majestic saw an 8.3% rise in online sales

New customers and an increasing focus on online sales helped Majestic Wine in the first half of the year, the company has reported.

The wine retailer said it had made “steady progress” in the six months to 30 September, with pre-tax profits up 4.2% to £9.5m. Total sales rose 3.3% to £130.2m, driven by an increase in e-commerce, which now accounts for 10.3% of the wine retailer’s business. It also said it was making progress to extend its number of stores to 330, with its 200th store due to open in Petersfield later this month.

In the UK, although like-for-like sales were dented by the timing of Easter and a dearth of summer events, falling 0.4%, in-store sales recovered, rising 3% to £112m in the 17 weeks from 4 June. The number of active customers also increased, up 6.2%, while the average price of a bottle of still wine rose from £7.46 last year to £7.71 this year.

Sales of fine wine also grew, up 15.6% to £7.4m, following a cut in the range to concentrate on more “recognisable” wines, the company said. Its specialist fine-wine arm, Lay & Wheeler, also saw pre-tax profits rise, up 13.6% to £575,000.

Online sales, which rose 8.3%, were expected to see continued growth, chief executive Steve Lewis said. Majestic launched its third-generation website in July to give enhanced options for customers, including an improved click & collect facility and the ability to see local stock availability. “This provides us with the infrastructure to handle expected further growth through the online channel,” he said.

B2B sales grew 8.6% to £25.6m, with sales to pubs, restaurants and hotels now accounting for nearly 22% of total UK business.

However, there was a 19% drop in pre-tax profit in the company’s Calais-based business, which caters for UK consumers ordering online or over the phone and collecting in France, with profits falling from £817,000 last year to £660,000.

Read this: Majestic pledges online growth won’t erode bricks and mortar