A.F. Blakemore has revealed an 18.5% profits increase and 7% sales rise for the 2014/15 financial year.

The company, which owns 294 Spar stores and supports 788 independent Spar stores across the UK, recorded annual sales of £1.28bn. Pre-tax profits were also up from £7.6m to £9.0m while net assets grew by 1.14% to £79.5m for 2014-15.

A.F. Blakemore chairman Peter Blakemore said: “These are encouraging results in a year when food retailing and wholesaling has encountered many challenges. Innovations have included our continued focus upon food service, fresh foods and food-to-go, which has included opening 19 Subways and three Greggs franchises to enhance the retail offer. We have continued to attract new stores and have invested considerable time and money to help develop independent stores.”

Throughout the year a total of 177 new stores opened or joined the group, of which 20% were through co-investment by the company and the independent retail owner, while 101 joined as part of Spar’s contract with forecourt operator Euro Garages.

Peter Blakemore added: “We reinvest 98% of the company’s profits back into the business, with the remaining 2% received by the Blakemore Foundation charitable trust. This on-going reinvestment has resulted in the significant growth of our business and I am confident for the years ahead.”