SCOTTISH diamond retailer Chisholm Hunter has hiked profits by 35% in its latest financial year and declared its performance would have been even better had it not been forced to delay two store openings.

The Glasgow-based jeweller, which expanded its store tally to 17 over the period, said the accounts will show a pre-tax profit of £2.8 million for the year to the end of March.

It had hoped turnover would reach £30m, but revealed sales had come in just below that level after two openings planned for London were delayed.

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In its previous set of accounts the firm, which can trace its roots back to 1857, reported profits of £2.1m on turnover of £18.9m.

And Harry Brown, who owns the business with wife Tracey, insisted he is confident turnover will rise to £40m in the current year.

Mr Brown said: "Our plans were hit to a certain extent by the two stores, because they should have opened several months ago. The plan was to be trading in January.

"We've still got a 35% increase. The profit will be £2.8m this year."

Chisholm Hunter boosted its portfolio last year by opening two units in Glasgow - one at Silverburn and the other in the Argyle Arcade. It also opened one in Falkirk.

And plans are in place to expand that number by at least four this year.

The retailer was scheduled to open a store in Kingston upon Thames on Friday, and is continuing to work on a new branch in Bromley, where it acquired the 100-year-old jewellery business EW Payne.

The company is currently co-operating with the local authority to achieve a "sympathetic restoration" of the Art Deco building, which Mr Brown said can be reached from the centre of London in 20 minutes by train.

He revealed investments of at least £500,000 will be made to refurbish the Bromley and Kingston stores, with both relaunched under the Chisholm Hunter brand.

The expenditure, which the business generated from its own resources, does not include the cost of stocking the stores and recruiting staff.

Mr Brown said: "That's the most historical building in Bromley because it's all newish buildings they've got. That's the issue we have had around the restoration of that - getting it right.

"To refurbish it is going to be over half a million [pounds]. I think it has got huge potential."

The two London openings will account for half of Chisholm Hunter's expansion plans this year.

It will open its fourth in Glasgow's Argyle Arcade when it takes back the lease of the Watches of Switzerland unit from the Aurum Group in June.

Noting that the unit will also trade as Chisholm Hunter, Mr Brown said: "Once again [there is] a rich heritage there. I think they have been selling Rolex there since the 1930s."

The company is also in talks over acquiring a further site at an undisclosed location in Scotland this year.

Mr Brown said the forthcoming store openings will increase the company's workforce by 50 to 250.

Asked whether the firm has set a target on store numbers, he said: "What I've always felt is that the most important thing is we reach our full potential, therefore we don't set an unrealistic target of saying we are going to open 100 stores. I have seen quite a few people come and go who have planned things like that.

"The main thing is that we are realistic, and that the target is stretching and achievable.

"We look at stores the same way we look at stock now - we're looking for quality environments. In terms of stock, even if something is a great seller, if we don't feel the quality is there we won't get into it. We would rather lose a sale than lose a customer."

The gemologist revealed the firm's latest results as he confirmed Chisholm Hunter had been short-listed for a multiple jeweller of the year award. If successful it will be the third year in a row it has lifted the gong at the Retail Jewellery Awards.

Asked for his views on current trading, Mr Brown said: "We are very positive. People have been looking for value for money throughout the recession and we have met that requirement."