Spar sales surge 11% as it prepares to smash through €1bn barrier

SALES in Spar convenience stores surged 11% to €960 million last year and will smash through the €1 billion barrier in 2005, BWG Holdings said yesterday.

BWG, whose businesses include the Spar and Mace brands as well as food and drink outlets in Britain, yesterday reported operating profits of €48.7m for the year to December, a 35% increase. Like-for like turnover was 11% ahead at €1.6bn, but total sales were down around €200m on the previous year following the sale of non-core businesses in Britain.

BWG chief executive Leo Crawford said he was “very happy” with the performance and that 2004 was a year of continued progress despite an increasingly competitive market.

“Approaching Spar’s €1bn sales target ahead of plan is testimony to the robustness of our customer proposition, quality of our staff, support of our independent retail partners across the country and strength of our convenience brand in local communities,” he said.

Growth was recorded across the group’s core divisions. Ireland accounted for 55% of revenues through Spar and Mace stores and BWG’s wholesale distribution division. The remaining 45% came from Britain, where BWG operates Spar franchises in the south-west of England and the Bargain Booze chain of off-licences.

But the contribution from Britain will fall off later this year with the sale of Bargain Booze, which is considered non-core. Mr Crawford said Bargain Booze was a “fantastic business” but that BWG wanted to focus on Ireland and its food business in Britain.

The group opened 57 new convenience stores during the year, bringing the total to 547. €200m has been invested in stores over the past two years in a programme that created 1,200 part-time and full-time jobs.

A further 35 new stores will be added to the Spar network this year, boosting staff numbers by 600.

Mr Crawford said the group would benefit from a continued building boom. Spar has been successful in locating new stores in major residential developments.

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