Booker has experienced a strong first half of the year despite a drop in tobacco sales.

In its interim results for the 24 weeks to 13 September 2013, the wholesaler reported £2.2bn in total sales for the first six months of the year, a 16.5% rise.

Booker also saw a 2.3% increase in like-for-like sales, with a 5% non-tobacco sales rise driving the growth. Tobacco sales dropped 2.2% during the period. Its pre-tax profits reached £58.1m, an increase of 17% while the wholesaler’s internet sales increased by 11% during the period.

Booker’s like-for-like sales to retailers decreased by 1.1% which was attributed to weak tobacco sales as a result of increasing competition from the illicit tobacco trade and electronic cigarettes, while sales to caterers grew by 8.7%. Its fresh category saw strong growth over the half-year, with fruit and vegetable sales up 18%.

It also increased its Premier symbol group estate from 2,724 outlets in 2012 to 2,899.

Booker reported that Makro is on track to offer £26m of synergies by the end of the financial year through savings on IT/Central costs, in the supply chain and the cost of goods.

According to chief executive Charles Wilson, the Makro acquisition, approved by the Competition Commission in April, has also helped both businesses improve their ranges.

“Booker has helped Makro improve meat, soft drinks and premium catering ranges and Makro has helped Booker improve fish, frozen and non-food ranges,” he explained.

Booker will remain for trade customers only while Makro will be available to both trade and small businesses. It has identified eight sites where Booker and Makro can operate from the same unit, similar to its Sheffield site which was recently converted to incorporate a Booker area.

Wilson said the wholesaler’s expansion programme was right on schedule. “Our plan to focus, drive and broaden Booker Group is on track,” he said. “The team at Makro have settled into the group and are making a real contribution. Through working together Booker and Makro are improving the choice, price and service for our retail, catering and small business customers.”