SUPERMARKET chain Safeway posted a nine per cent jump in first-half profits and said shoppers were continuing to respond to its new-look stores.

It has refurbished dozens of its supermarkets as part of chief executive Carlos Criado-Perez's strategy to revive the grocer's fortunes.

Total sales in the six months to October 13 surged six per cent to £5.02bn as it gained more than 500,000 new customers.

Figures out last month showed like-for-like growth, which excludes sales at new stores, jumped 5.7 per cent in the first half.

The sales increase took pre-tax profits for the period to £181m, compared with £166.1m a year ago.

Safeway has reformatted 73 stores, extending and improving fresh food areas and introducing new counters.

Chairman David Webster said the results showed the progress that had been made by the group.

While he refused to comment on current trading, he said: "We have never been better prepared for Christmas".

Mr Webster said he believed the sector as a whole would do well over the festive season, despite the heightened economic uncertainty.

"There is no reason to believe the sector, and no less, Safeway, should not have a good Christmas," he said.

"Far fewer people are travelling abroad for Christmas so more money will be spent in Britain."