JOHANNESBURG  - Pharmacy, health and beauty retailer Clicks on Wednesday reported a 13.2 percent increase in diluted headline earnings per share to 300.1 cents for the six months to February, driven by strong health and beauty sales.

Clicks increased its interim dividend by 15.1 percent to 118 cents per share.

Group turnover was up 6.2 percent to R15.3 billion and the operating profit grew by 11.3 percent to R1 billion.

CEO Vikesh Ramsunder said the Clicks Group was planning capital investment of R700 million for the year, split across the store and pharmacy network, and group infrastructure to support the increased scale of the business.

Clicks said it had expanded its store footprint to 680 with the opening of 17 stores in the past six months. The online store was the chain’s fastest growing store, reflecting customers’ need for convenience as well as the growing trend to online shopping in South Africa.

Eighteen new pharmacies were opened to extend the pharmacy network to 528. Clicks increased its share of the retail pharmacy market from to 23.8 percent from 23 percent at the end of February 2019 and said it planned to grow this to 30 percent in the long term.

Macro-economic conditions were not likely to improve in the short to medium term, and Clicks expected the trading environment to remain challenging in the second half, Ramsunder said.

"In addition, electricity load shedding continues to have a negative impact on consumer confidence and trading," he added, referring to rotational blackouts implemented by struggling power utility Eskom to relieve demand pressure on the national grid.

But Ramsunder said the core health and beauty markets in which Clicks traded, as well as its business model, had proven to be resilient.

"In this difficult environment Clicks plans to take advantage of opportunities to accelerate its store expansion programme by opening 41 new stores in the financial year, well ahead of the targeted 25 to 30 stores," he said.

"We are forecasting an increase in diluted headline earnings per share of between 10 percent and 15 percent for the full financial year."

- African News Agency (ANA)