Belfast Telegraph

Spar owner Henderson to take over five stores from grocery rival


Ron Whitten, chief financial officer, Henderson Group
Ron Whitten, chief financial officer, Henderson Group

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland grocery giant Henderson Group is expanding its business once again amid plans to buy over five major retail stores from a rival, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Henderson Group, which owns Spar, has announced its intention to purchase five food retail stores from McColl's.

Earlier this year, McColl's took on the five stores here from Co-op, as part of a deal for 300 across the UK.

Two stores in Newtownabbey and one each in Ballymena, Bangor and Tandragee will all be converted to Spar stores, once the deal is completed next week.

It's understood all 72 staff across the five stores will transfer under to Henderson Group. It brings Henderson's store estate to almost 430.

Ron Whitten, chief financial officer, Henderson Group, said: "We are delighted to have reached agreement to acquire the five stores and look forward to investing further to drive retail sales and provide a valuable service to the local community."

It's understood the former Co-op stores, which are currently owned by McColl's, have already undergone a rebrand.

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In September, Henderson Group unveiled a new £12.5m warehouse as part of its latest growth and expansion.

It is one of Northern Ireland's biggest retail groups, with turnover of close to £700m. In its latest accounts, its parent company posted pre-tax profit of £20.3million.

There are around 422 Spar, Vivo and Eurospar stores across Northern Ireland, with around 80 which are owned by Henderson while the rest are run by independent retailers.

McColl's took a financial hit from the Co-op takeover, with profits almost cut in half.

The group said pre-tax profits fell from £8.2m to £4.5m in the first half of the year after it booked £2.3m in exceptional cost linked to the deal.

But revenue rose 7.6% to £504.8m in the six months to May 28, with like-for-like sales growing 0.2%.

In the second quarter, comparable sales increased 1.4%, supported by "favourable weather and our evolving mix of growth products".

The latest expansion from Henderson comes as Nisa Retail members have given the green light to Co-op Group's £137.5m takeover offer, with over 75% voting in favour of the deal.

Nisa has more than 100 shops across Northern Ireland.

It helps pave the way for Co-op's plans to acquire 100% of the convenience store operator, which has around 1,200 shopkeeper members running over 3,200 stores, assuming the deal is cleared by UK authorities.

The retailer said it expects the takeover to be approved by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) by the end of March 2018.

Belfast Telegraph