Majestic chief toasts a year of sparkling profits

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The Independent Online

The chief executive of Majestic Wine is hoping for a summer of sunshine and plenty of medals for British athletes at the Olympics to lift its sales.

Steve Lewis made his comments as the wine warehouse specialist toasted record full-year profits and a sparkling 20 per cent rise in its full-year dividend.

While the Uefa Euro football tournament "neither helps nor hinders" its sales, Majestic enjoyed a "very strong" two weeks leading up to, and including, the Diamond Jubilee.

Mr Lewis was also upbeat about the impact of a successful Olympics for Team GB. "If the sun shines and we start winning medals, I think the British will go out and celebrate [by buying wine and champagne]."

Majestic grew group profits by 14.5 per cent to £23.2m over the 53 weeks to 2 April, driven by an uplift in customer numbers and a £2 rise in average spend per transaction to £128.

The 181-store chain reduced its minimum-purchase policy from 12 bottles to six in September 2009 to make it more accessible to cash-strapped consumers.

Majestic last week introduced the same policy for online orders, for which the retail chain provides free delivery nationwide. Despite the recession, the retailer posted an 18.5 per cent spike in sales of fine wine at £20 or above last year. Mr Lewis said that this was partly due to it increasing its fine wine offer to 80 per cent of its stores, adding they will be rolled out to all its shops over the next 12 months.

While Majestic saw bubbly and wine fly off the shelves in the build-up to the Jubilee, its sales slowed "immediately" after the celebrations and are only up by 0.6 per cent over the 10 weeks to 11 June. This compares to 2.6 per cent growth last year.

Majestic, which reported profits in France of £1.4m and wants to grow to 330 stores in 10 years, lifted its total dividend by 20 per cent to 15.6p.

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