Iceland reported strong growth in online sales in its latest full-year results, and said it would continue to expand the business.
The frozen food specialist, Iceland Topco, unveiled sales of £2.7bn in the year to March 27 on Friday afternoon. Total sales were 0.8% down on the previous year. Like-for-like sales, which strip out the effect of store openings and closures, were 2.7% down on the previous year while earnings before interest, taxes and asset writedowns came in at £150.5m, up from £150.2m last time.
Iceland said the decline in its sales had come in an "exceptionally challenging" economic climate. However, it said that decline, which reduced to a 2.7% fall in like-for-like sales from 4.4% the previous year, had been moderated by factors including fast growth in its online business and the launch of its larger format The Food Warehouse business. The supermarket said it regularly made more than 200,000 deliveries a week, both from those ordered online and from those bought in-store for home delivery. Online orders are delivered free when they are worth £35 or more, and for a small charge when they are worth £25 or more, while the minimum in-store purchase for free delivery is £20.
Some 25 branches of The Food Warehouse are set to open in the UK this year, adding to 12 that were open by the end of the financial year. The company is also trialling the Iceland concept in eastern Europe, with five stores now open in the Czech Republic. It already supplies 32 franchised stores in markets including Spain, Portugal, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
Chairman and chief executive Malcolm Walker said: "We have achieved good progress with a range of strategic initiatives designed to differentiate our business and stabilise our financial performance in what remains an extremely challenging UK marketplace."
He added: "Building on our 20 years of expertise in home delivery, we have developed a fast-growing online business that has been recognised in an independent survey as offering the best customer service in the UK. We have also begun an accelerated roll-out of our larger store concept, The Food Warehouse, operating on retail parks where footfall is currently growing faster than on traditional high street locations.
"Together these initiatives have delivered a moderation of the decline in our like-for-like sales, the planned stabilisation of our EBITDA and continued strong cash generation."