Majestic Wine, the UK’s largest wine warehouse chain, has this morning reported a 20% rise in pre-tax profit for the 26 weeks to 26 September, but also reported a 1.1% fall in like-for-like sales for the first six weeks of the second half of its financial year. Profit before tax for the first half of the year jumped to £8.81m, up from £7.35m in 2010. Like-for-like sales for the period climbed 2.7% across its retail stores, while total sales rose from £117.6m last year to £127.77m. In the six weeks from 27 September to 7 November 2011, like-for-like sales in its UK stores fell 1.1%, with total UK store sales up 3.8%. The average spend per transaction at the group’s stores rose to £125 from £122 and the average bottle price of still wine purchased at Majestic stood at £7.13 up from £6.67 in 2009. Increase in active customers, up 7.7% to 534,000, while online sales climbed 8.7% on last year and now represent 9% of the group’s UK retail sales. During the period the company opened eight new stores in Evesham, Weston-Super-Mare, Fleet, Livingston, Hale, Dundee, Worthing and Bury St Edmunds. Since the end of the period it has opened in Clitheroe, Ripon and Braintree. It will open in Chesterfield and in West Kirby on the Wirral later in the year bringing the total number of stores trading in the UK to 176. The company believes that it has the potential to expand to at least 330 locations in the UK.