UK premium coffee and tea retailer Whittard of Chelsea has said the year to 31 May 2005 started well but ended on a disappointing note.

The company said profit before tax amounted to £2.35m (US$4.31m) for the year, down 29% from £3.32m a year earlier, due principally to the challenging UK retail market. Turnover rose to £46.1m from £42.1m in the previous year, while like-for-like sales rose 0.5%. Overseas and UK wholesale sales rose to £2.9m from £1.6m a year earlier. Thirteen new shops were opened in the UK and two relocated during the year.

"As previously reported, growth in our UK retail trading turned down during Christmas 2004 and has remained challenging since. Solid progress was made overseas as our distribution base continues to increase," Whittard said.

UK retail sales to 28 August 2005 (the first quarter of the current year) are 1.2% ahead of the corresponding period last year, but like-for-like sales are down 4.1%. Whittard attributes this reduction in sales to the July terrorist attacks in London combined with lower footfall at the stores located in outlet centres.

"Trading in the company's central London and tourist stores has been materially affected since the July attacks and the board now believes this situation is likely to continue for some time and may even adversely affect sales during the important Christmas period," the company said.

In July the company announced that it had received potential takeover approaches. However, initial interest in a potential offer for the company was received from overseas companies, and such interest waned following the terrorist attacks in central London.

"The disclosure of talks did, however, prompt other parties to express interest, but that is no longer progressing and the board has confirmed that it is no longer in talks with potential offerors regarding a possible offer for the company," Whittard said.