UK tea and coffee retailer Whittard of Chelsea has reported a rise in first-half profit and said its trading over the Christmas period was “very strong”.

The company posted profit of £514,000 (US$0.93m) for the six months to 30 November, compared to £9,000 profit in the year-ago period.

Total sales for the six month period rose 15.8% to £19.3m, while like-for-like sales increased 5.8%.

The company said its like-for-like sales growth had continued into the second half, increasing to 9.7% for the first eight weeks of the second half, which includes Christmas trading.

“I am delighted with these results which demonstrate the strength of our brand both in the UK and overseas. Our very strong cash flow has enabled us to accelerate our expansion and early results have been most encouraging,” said CEO Richard Rose.

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“Our growth is continuing into the second half, with strong trading both at Christmas and during January 2004. These most encouraging trends, coupled with the current level of trading activity, give me much cause for optimism and I remain excited by the prospects for further growth,” Rose added.