An increase in customer numbers and online sales helped Booker to a 7.3% total sales increase over the past 12 months.

The wholesaler also posted a 6.1% increase in total like-for-like sales for the 52 weeks to March 23, 2012. Tobacco sales increased 7.8% over the 12-month period while non-tobacco sales were up 5.1%.

Booker also saw an increase of 5% in customer numbers during this period and a 21% increase in internet sales.

Retail sales director Steve Fox said its customers were seeking out value in tough times. “The market remains challenging for independent retailers with value being the key driver to their success,” he said. “We continue to improve our choice, price and service to help our customers operate a profitable and sustainable business.”

Fox warned that there would be further challenges ahead for the sector but that the wholesaler was on hand to help retailers make the most of the opportunities available. “Although the outlook remains challenging for our customers there is still a massive opportunity for independent retailers to increase their sales by doing a good job for their shoppers,” he said. “I am grateful that more retailers are choosing Booker and am looking forward to growing their business and serving them in the future.”

The wholesaler has been helping retailers gear up for the tobacco display ban in larger stores through its ‘D-day’ campaign. Over 4,000 of its customers attended Booker presentations for the ‘5-Step Guide to Great Retailing’ to take advantage of the larger stores going dark three years earlier than everyone else. Booker estimates that the independent sector could benefit by up £1bn a year in additional sales due to the three-year grace period for smaller shops.

Booker is also offering a free epos system to its customers with 300 stores currently involved in the scheme.