China-based Lianhua Supermarket plans to set up 350 new retail outlets across the country this year, taking its total store count to 5,500.

The company said it will focus on opening convenience stores during 2012, continuing the trend in recent years, reported

In Beijing, the retailer has been focusing on rapid development and continues to grow its market share in the convenience store sector.

Of all the new openings, around 180 will be convenience shops located in cities such as Beijing and Hangzhou.

The announcement to open new outlets came as Lianhua reported strong growth in profit and sales for 2011.

The firm’s revenue totalled RMB27.52bn ($4.36bn) in 2011, representing a growth of about 6.23% compared to the previous year.

Same store sales of the group grew 5.34% in 2011, in which hypermarket segment rose 5.59%, supermarket segment grew 4.68% and convenience stores segment climbed 6.71%.

In the same period, gross profit increased 9.52% to RMB3.95bn ($626.13m), while consolidated income rose 9.23% to RMB7.07bn ($1.12bn), year-over-year in 2011.

The retailer’s operating profit totalled RMB829m ($131.40m), representing an increase of about 6.99% over that of 2010.

During the year, Lianhua opened 390 new outlets, including 15 hypermarkets, 171 supermarkets and 204 convenience stores.

The newly opened supermarkets comprise of 32 direct operation stores and 139 franchised stores, while new convenience stores comprise of 61 direct operation stores and 143 franchised stores.

As of 31 December 2011, Lianhua had a total of 5,150 retail outlets, about 85% of which were located in the Eastern China.

The group has three main retail segments – supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores – which operate under Century Mart, Lianhua Supermarket, Hualian Supermarket and Lianhua Quik brand names.