Henderson Group, owner of Spar, Eurospar and Vivo in Northern Ireland, trumpeted a record financial year at its wholesale conference in Seville Spain, last weekend.

Pre-tax profit after interest climbed 10.9% to £23.87m on turnover up 6% at £699.3m.

Like-for-like grocery sales rose 3.5%, driven by strong performance of fresh food volumes, up 8% in the year to the end of December. Like-for-like sales at company-owned stores grew 8.6%.

The company’s Barista Bar coffee brand, which is now in 260 Spar, Eurospar and Vivo stores, enjoyed a 30% uplift in like-for-like sales.

The company said an ongoing co-investment strategy with its retail partners to establish a market-leading portfolio of supermarket, forecourt and convenience stores has boosted the strong sales performance across all its brand formats.

Patrick Doody, sales and marketing director, said the group invested more than £34m in store acquisitions, refurbishments and head office infrastructure, designed to future-proof the business to meet consumer and retailer demands.

“In 2016, 15 new stores were opened under the group’s main retail brands,” he said.

Spar and Eurospar, in particular, continued to dominate the local symbol group scene in Northern Ireland.

“A comprehensive strategic growth and profitability plan implemented in 2016 which included continued focus on delivering excellence in customer service, investing in our people, developing our information systems, maximising our operational efficiency, enhancing our fresh food ranges and in-store proposition, continues to yield results as projected,” said Doody.

Ron Whitten, chief financial officer, added that strong like-for-like growth across all subsidiaries, high retailer retention rates and new retailer recruitment coupled with “significant investment” within company-owned stores and with retail partners had delivered £40m of extra sales.