Belfast Telegraph

Henderson Group's sales defy downturn

By Clare Weir

One in four workers are planning to quit their job in the next year in a "backlash" against ongoing pay and recruitment freezes, according to a new study today.

Northern Ireland supermarket firm Henderson Group has announced a turnover of £500m despite tough trading conditions.

The figure for 2009 represents an 11% rise on the previous year.

The family-owned company supplies 422 stores across Northern Ireland including the Spar, Eurospar, Vivo and Vivo Extra chains and employs more than 2,000 people across the province.

Its success last year resulted in Hendersons recruiting 40 new stores into the group.

Ron Whitten, financial director, Henderson Group, said the improved profit performance reflects the impact of significant investment in independent retail.

"Due to the current challenging economic conditions, our key priorities of continuing to provide first-class customer service, operational efficiency and managing our cost base will be of vital importance," he said.

He revealed that Henderson Group will this year invest £33m in expansion and refurbishment plans to drive future growth. Of this £33m, independent retailers will be supported by a £3m investment in local marketing, with an additional £6m spent by Spar UK nationally, marketing Spar.

Another £14m will be invested in new warehousing and office accommodation for Henderson Foodservice at the Mallusk site. Pattons have been appointed contractors for the project, giving a boost to the construction industry.

The investment is in response to sales growth in excess of 30% since 2007 and ongoing expansion, which will see all warehousing and distribution services centralised at Mallusk by 2011.

Henderson Foodservice also acquired The Streat Franchise, which has an annual turnover in excess of £8m, reflecting consistently strong growth and an increase of 8% from last year.

Patrick Doody, sales and marketing director, Henderson Wholesale, said that Henderson Group had delivered another strong set of results. "Once again, our focus on fresh food and great value appealed to shoppers everywhere, and we have successfully grown sales to record levels," he said.

But the firm expects the economic environment to remain challenging, "as disposable incomes come under pressure and value remains a priority for consumers".