Spar suppliers in Northern Ireland stockpiling as owner reports sales of £853m
Suppliers to Spar and its sister convenience stores in Northern Ireland are stockpiling in case of a possible no-deal Brexit, its group company said as it reported 12% sales growth to £853m.
Family firm John Henderson (Holdings), which has subsidiaries including the operator of Eurospar, Spar and Vivo shops, had pre-tax profits of £33.3m, up 66% from £20m.
Subsidiary Henderson Retail owns and operates 80 stores including supermarkets and neighbourhood shops, and also provides marketing and distribution to another 470 shops.
During the year that business acquired three new sites, including the opening of a new Spar on Sunnyside Street, off the Ormeau Road in south Belfast. Staff numbers also grew from 3,386 to 3,500.
Henderson Wholesale holds the franchise for Spar, Eurospar and Vivo, and markets, advises and distributes goods to over 470 grocery retailers.
The business said that there had been "exceptional" sales growth of 6.2% in all channels and formats within its grocery divisions. Footfall was increasing along with basket spend, particularly in large-format stores.
It said the 6.2% growth was down to a focus on "brand differentiation, local provenance, investing in our store formats and co-investing with our retailers, together with best-in-class marketing and advertising programmes".
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New stores which had joined the group included 16 locations recruited from rival symbol retailers, two greenfield site openings and another two stores which were acquired into the company-owned strategy after trading with competitors.
A strategic report filed with the accounts said the grocery and food service markets remained "highly competitive".
But it also warned that the impact of Brexit on the economy and supply chain was "uncertain".
The report said: "The group has established a working group to plan for potential outcomes, risks and challenges that Brexit may bring to the business and minimise any adverse impact."
The report said the company had worked with suppliers on contingency plans for a no-deal, including "working with suppliers to ensure additional stocks are in place to satisfy our demands, securing additional warehouse space as we build stock of ambient and frozen lines and identifying product lines that may be at higher risk of shortages".
John Henderson (Holdings) said fuel volumes in its company-owned stores had grown by 2.2% on a like-for-like basis, which was driving increased footfall to shops.
Food service had also brought growth of 16.1% over the past 12 months.
However, overall fuel and cigarettes were representing a smaller percentage of total sales in 2018, accompanied by strong growth in the ambient, fresh food and food-to-go departments.
In February, Henderson Group announced it had joined with Dermott McConnell to buy supermarket JD Hunter & Co in Markethill, Co Armagh.
Other subsidiaries of John Henderson (Holdings) include Henderson Technology and Henderson Foodservice, which supplies products for catering.