Majestic Wine boosted by Yorkshire store opening

WINE merchant Majestic Wine raised a glass to a 15 per cent rise in annual profits today as strong growth in vintages from Argentina, Italy and Spain helped drive sales.

The group, which has 181 stores in the UK, said the number of customers who made purchases in the last year increased by 11 per cent to 568,000, while the average bottle price of still wine was up to £7.34 from £6.94 the previous year.

Majestic also saw an 18.5 per cent jump in sales of fine wines - priced at £20 per bottle or more - from Burgundy, Bordeaux and New World ranges.

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The group, which recorded 2.6 per cent growth in like-for-like sales in the year to April 2, reported pre-tax profits of £23.2m, compared to £20.3m the previous year.

However, Majestic said like-for-like sales have slowed to 0.6 per cent in the first 10 weeks of the new financial year - reflecting comparisons with the Royal Wedding in 2011 - and warned the trading environment was likely to continue to be difficult.

The group said it was confident of being able to expand to 330 stores after opening 16 in the last financial year and a further three in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, Esher and Edinburgh since the year end. Total group sales were up nine per cent to £280.3m as a wide range of wines from New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Portugal and the Loire all performed well. Online sales were up eight per cent on last year, representing 10 per cent of total UK retail sales. The average transaction value rose 1.4 per cent to £144 and the company processed 190,000 orders, up from 175,000 last year.

There was further cheer for shareholders as the group lifted its total dividend by 20 per cent to 15.6p.