Sales at Ocado rose by 12% in the first half of its financial year as more people buy their groceries online.
The online grocer said it had boosted capacity and product range during the first half of the year, while also developing its offer to customers to attract the growing numbers who are ordering over the internet.
“More customers of the big supermarket chains are shopping online,” said Tim Steiner, Ocado chief executive. “While we remain cautious about the general economic backdrop, we are well placed to attract a significant number of these new online shoppers as we continue to enhance our offer to customers.”
Pre-tax profits before exceptional items doubled to £0.4m in the 24 weeks to May 13 from £0.2m last time, on sales of £332.3m, up 12% on last time’s £296.7m. After exceptional items, profits were flat at £0.2m.
Its customer fulfillment centre(CFC) in Hatfield reached record capacity, processing an average 122,000 orders a week, 13% up on the same time last year. In future, the centre is expected to deal with up to 160,000 orders. Ocado’s second CFC is set to open in the first quarter of next year. Ocado’s range also broadened by 10% to more than 22,500 lines during the first half.
“The last six months been all about delivering our plans to increase capacity, efficiency and range and enhancing our offer to customers,” said Steiner. He added: “Ocado now offers a grocery range which compared favourably against all of the large physical supermarket groups, and we have continued to deliver new ideas and innovations to improve our offer to customers.”
Ocado said it was widening its appeal, and that it was seeing its strongest growth among lower income customers. Another growth area was in mobile sales, with some 24% of orders checked out on mobile devices during the period.
Steiner sounded a note of caution, as he said the third quarter was hard to forecast because of uncertainty as to what effect the Olympic Games would have, and a “challenging and uncertain” economy. Nonetheless sales growth would continue, he believed, as demand rose.
Ocado also announced it had appointed a new chief financial officer. Duncan Tatton-Brown, previously of Kingfisher, B&Q and Fitness First, joins on September 1, replacing Andrew Bracey, who announced his April departure in January.