French off-licence chain Nicolas has closed nine unprofitable stores over the past year as it strives to return to profit and more closures are likely.

While most of its 69 stores were now profitable, there were still some loss-making stores that are likely to be closed when their leases came up for renewal, said managing director Eudes Morgan.

"A reason for the closures is the level of rents, which are not decreasing in most cases despite the credit crunch and in some cases are even increasing," he said.

The most recent ­accounts, for the year to December 2008, show Nicolas increased its turnover 14% to £22.7m while its pre-tax losses were reduced from £1.5m to just £48,424. "The losses in recent years are mainly due to the separation from Oddbins but also to the cost of disposing of some unprofitable stores in 2008 and 2009," he said.

Nicolas, owned by wine-making giant Castel, still had a good future in the UK, he added. The market in London remained strong and some stores had "grabbed turnover" from Threshers and other First Quench Retailing stores that shut at the end of 2009.

"Nicolas' plans for the UK remain limited to our niche we focus more on London where we have had a great success for the past 20 years," he added.