Food and drink wholesaler Booker has reported a 6.5% increase in like-for-like sales for the 24 weeks to 9 September and said that it continues to trade in line with expectations. The company said that total sales for the period rose 8.5% to £1.84bn, with non-tobacco sales up 5.1% and tobacco sales up 8.8% on a like-for-like basis. Pre-tax profit stood at £45m, up from 22% the previous year, while operating profit rose 17.1% to £45.9m. The group, which is led by chief executive Charles Wilson, said that like-for-like sales to caterers were up 5.7%, down on a 6.4% rise in the previous year, while like-for-like sales to retailers were up 6.9% during the six months against a 4.8% rise in 2010. Wilson said: “Our plan to Focus, Drive and Broaden Booker Group is on track. We improved choice, price and service for our customers, which increased sales by 8.5%. Ritter Courivaud and Classic, the two businesses we acquired last year, have fitted nicely into the Group and the internet and India are making good progress. In a challenging business environment, Booker continues to advance. “Group turnover in the second half to date is ahead of the same period last year. Working capital levels and costs are in line with plan. Overall, Booker Group plc continues to trade in line with management expectations.”