DRY cleaning business Johnsons has reported a fall in half-year sales and profits after cutting its number of branches.

The business, which has bases in Darlington, Yarm, near Stockton, and Northallerton and Richmond, in North Yorkshire, said revenues fell 4.6 per cent to £27.2m and operating profit was down 43 per cent to £400,000 in the six months to June 30.

Bosses blamed the drop on a challenging market.

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However, they revealed its parent company Johnson Service Group saw pre-tax profit rise 45.5 per cent to £6.4m after the purchase of a hotel laundry business contributed to earnings.

Group sales lifted 5.7 per cent to £101.6m.

In its dry cleaning business, bosses said the market remained tough, although they revealed it was seeing increased demand for the laundry and ironing services.

They added Johnson continues to look for new ways to reach customers, such as its partnership with Waitrose, where it offers dry cleaning services at the supermarket's customer service desks.

It opened at a further 29 Waitrose locations during the period, and has plans for more openings in the second half of the year.

However, since last June it has closed 15 dry cleaning branches.

The business added that it signed a new £70m bank facility in February, giving it room for further investment.

Paul Moody, chairman, said: "We are continuing to focus on our dry cleaning business and developing new ways of reaching potential customers, and our partnership with Waitrose is one example.

The traditional dry cleaning market remains challenging, although we are continuing to see an increasing demand for services such as laundry and ironing.

"I'm very pleased with the strong performance in the first half of the year and expect the results for 2014 to be slightly ahead of market expectations.

"The board is also continuing to seek further acquisitions in textile rental and to invest in additional capacity at existing locations."