Camera specialist Jessops impressed the City with its snapshot of trading yesterday as it prepared for life without the executive who led it through the digital revolution.
Jessops said like-for-like sales in the 25 weeks to March 26 were 2.6 per cent ahead of the same stage of 2005 despite Easter falling later this year.
The Leicester-based group reported better margins despite a tough retail environment. This was a result of its focus on exclusive merchandise deals together with developing and printing, the company said.
Consumers were also showing a willingness to replace their old digital cameras with new ones as technology improves.
Jessops said sales of high-performance SLR cameras were up 52 per cent by value at a time when the comparable sales growth for digital cameras overall was a more modest 15 per cent.
Shares in Jessops rose five per cent as the company said its half-year results would be in line with its expectations, adding that like-for-like sales for the 12 weeks to March 19 were down 0.8 per cent after stripping out the impact of Easter.
The trading update is one of the last to be delivered by chief executive Derek Hine after he announced plans to retire when the company delivers its interim results on May 17.
Seymour Pierce analyst Rhys Williams said the performance by Jessops over the past six months was pleasing and upgraded his forecasts for annual profits to £17 million.
Mr Williams said: "When Jessops first floated we were positive about its niche positioning and being at the fore-front of a growth sub-sector through digital cameras.
"This changed last spring when sales inexplicably fell off a cliff.
"Whilst sales continue to be difficult to come by, Jessops has worked hard to reclaim a differentiated position in a competitive market, and has formulated a decent new growth strategy through digital processing and using its market leading position to g ain some exclusive merchandise."
The statement from Jessops confirmed that the roll out of a digital photo processing service to more than 200 stores
across the UK was progressing well. "This new format store is trading in line with expectations and we are actively looking with Carphone Ware-house for further sites where we could open similar out-oftown stores," Jessops said.