Majestic Wine Plc reported a 20 percent rise in first-half pretax profit as sales rose on substantial increase in active customers, and the company lifted its interim dividend by 17.9 percent to 3.3 pence.

The UK's largest wine warehouse chain said it has made a very encouraging start to the second half and it is well prepared for the important Christmas trading period.

Although the consumer environment remains challenging we see good potential for the future growth of Majestic, the company said in a statement.

For the half year ended September 27, the company posted a pretax profit of 7.3 million pounds, compared with 6.12 million pounds in the year-ago quarter. Total sales rose 10.2 percent to 117.6 million pounds ($189.1 million). Like for like sales in UK retail stores grew 7.6 percent.

The company operates in three business segments: Majestic Wine Warehouses, which is a United Kingdom-based wine retailer; Lay & Wheeler, which is a wine market, and Wine and Beer World, which is a retail unit in northern France.

Majestic Wine said number of customers rose 14.0 percent to 496,000. Online sales increased 8.3 percent on last year and now represent 9.1 percent of UK retail sales, it said.

In the six weeks from September 28 to November 8, like for like sales in its UK stores rose 7.4 percent, the company said.

Shares of Majestic Wine closed Friday's regular trading session at 362 pence on the London Stock Exchange.