Book retailer Ottakar's kept up its record of 20% annual profits growth today after benefiting from its acquisition of the Hammicks chain.

The deal last year added 24 stores to the Salisbury-based group's portfolio, helping turnover rise by 34% to £153.7 million in the year to January 31. Profits were up £1 million to £6.1 million as Ottakar's achieved growth of 20% or more for the fourth year running.

Strong Christmas sales helped the performance following strong demand for titles including Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves and Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.

Ottakar's added the outlook for this financial year appeared promising with total sales in the seven weeks up 37.5% and by 9.1% on a like-for-like basis.

Chairman Philip Dunne said: "Further progress will be driven by a full-year contribution from Hammicks without its one-off integration costs, coupled with our continued store opening programme and further supply chain efficiencies."

The group. which currently has 121 stores, said it would open another eight to ten outlets in this financial year.

However, sales comparisons with a year earlier will be tougher as last year featured the latest instalment of the Harry Potter series.

Thursday March 25, 2004