Iceland sees profits jump 19% after stores boost

PROFITS at frozen foods retailer Iceland jumped 19 per cent after it opened 74 new stores in another record year for the chain.

Iceland Foods Group, the owner of Iceland Foods and Cooltrader, said the conversion of 51 former Woolworths stores contributed to its fastest rate of expansion since the group acquired Bejam in 1989.

It opened four new stores north of the Border during the year – in Alexandria, near Loch Lomond; East Kilbride in south Lanarkshire; and Fraserburgh and Peterhead, both in Aberdeenshire.

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A spokesman for the group said it planned to open another 20-30 outlets in its current financial year, including four in Scotland. He declined to disclose details on their location.

Like-for-like sales at Iceland Foods stores open for more than a year rose 4.3 per cent in the year to 26 March and helped boost total sales by 10.4 per cent to 2.2 billion. Net profits rose to 135.4 million from 113.4m the previous year.

Despite increased capital expenditure, net debt was reduced to 7.6m from 85.4m.

Chief executive Malcolm Walker has overseen five years of growth at the chain after its performance nose-dived under previous owner the Big Food Group.

Walker co-founded Iceland in Shropshire in 1970 and returned to manage the business in 2005.

He said competition in the sector was "more aggressive than ever" but that the company had the right business model to make further progress.

Iceland has 776 stores and 20,000-plus staff across the UK.