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Investment sees Henderson Group profits soar to £24m

By Rachel Martin

Pre-tax profits have risen by 11% to reach £24m at retail and wholesale giant Henderson Group - and its all down to continued investment and a push for all things local, bosses say.

Sales at the group - one of Northern Ireland's best known retailers and wholesalers - increased to £699.3m, up 6% in the year ending December 31, 2016.

The firm also increased its workforce by 270 people to almost 3,100 - an increase of 9%.

Henderson Group, which owns Spar, Eurospar and Vivo brands in Northern Ireland, announced record levels of sales, investment and jobs growth last year.

Increased fuel sales across company owned stores was also thought to have upped store footfall and helped increase retail sales.

It comes as the firm opened 16 new shops and invested around £34m throughout its retail, infrastructure and employment sections.

The group's chief financial officer Ron Whitten and sales and marketing director Patrick Doody announced the annual results during the company's wholesale conference in Seville at the weekend.

The event in Spain was attended by more than 250 of its retailers, suppliers and staff.

Mr Doody said the growth was mainly down to a £34m investment, spent acquiring new shops, restructuring the company and refurbishing existing stores in 2016.

The investment included £3.5m spent on a new head office in Mallusk, bringing administration staff together under one roof.

He added that next year the business expects to up its investment to £43m, a sum which will include more store refurbishments, acquisitions and a new warehouse currently under construction in Mallusk.

It's expected the firm will take on a further 15-16 new stores by the end of this year.

There are currently 422 Spar, Vivo and Eurospar stores across Northern Ireland, 79 of which are owned by Henderson, while the rest are run by independent retailers.

Mr Doody added that the £34m investment made by Hendersons had been furthered by £11m invested by franchise owners.

"It's of very strong importance to us to support local suppliers, and that's for a number of reasons," he said.

"There's good economic reasons in terms of food miles and it's important for the consumer too.

"If you are buying mash made by Mash Direct in Comber rather than mash made in Scotland, people see it as being fresher, as well as having that sense of supporting other local businesses."

Mr Doody added that this year he expects the firm will see sales increase by around 5% as well as a "slight increase" in operating profit.

Henderson Wholesale has been distributing food and grocery-related products to the convenience retail sector for 120 years and is the largest operator of its kind in the province.

Over 75% of the group's fresh products are sourced in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Henderson Wholesale works with 120 local fresh-food suppliers including Dale Farm, Willowbrook Farm, Punjana, Tayto, Dale Farm, Ormo, Moy Park, Denny, Boconnell mushrooms, Clandeboye Yoghurt, Cookstown meats and Irwin's.

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