Countrywide Farmers Stores has bounced back from the rural recession to turn around a £3 million loss into a £200,000 profit last year.

The Worcestershire-based group, which is owned by 11,000 farmer shareholders, benefited from country folk and former city livers going to its retail outlets to send overall turnover up 5.5 per cent to £159.8 million.

The recovery was led by the retail side of the business, which increased sales by six per cent to £57.2 million, and saw profits rise 75 per cent to £1.4 million in the 12 months to May 31.

The retail arm, which consists of 40 stores operating as a one-stop shop for farming, smallholder, equestrian, pet, gardening, clothing and footwear for the rural consumer.

A spokesman for the company said: "We are doing very well from people who have moved to the country and are coming to our stores to buy Barbour jackets and wellies, or put fencing in for their horses and buying horse feed."

The company, which is based in Defford, is about to launch its Countrywide Online Trading Store set to deliver, in 2007, with 25 per cent of the 12,000 products in store now available direct to homes, via the internet.

Countrywide's agricultural and energy businesses will also be selling online later next year.

The agricultural supplies business, which supplies animal feed and fertiliser, narrowed its loss from £900,000 to £600,000, after the firm closed its own feed factory in Wiltshire and struck a deal with national manufacturer BOCM Pauls to supply it.

Meanwhile the energy business - which supplies gas, heating oil and electricity - saw profits dip from £800,000 to £500,000.

"These results are most encouraging. They show that the company is successfully exploiting the potential that exists in this very exciting lifestyle market," said Countrywide Farmers managing director, John Hardman.

"The key drivers to increased 'basket spend' in our stores will come from sophisticated marketing initiatives and continually refreshing our product offering to keep our customers, the farmer and the rural consumer, loyal to Countrywide - no matter how they wish to buy from us.

"The on-line offer will bring us into contact with a whole new market place. The growth in equestrianism, the interest in small-scale farming and the appeal of a country lifestyle will continue to bring new customers - through both the real and virtual Country Stores."