Northern Ireland-based Henderson Group has announced a strong performance for 2011 with a 9.6% rise in turnover.

The family-run company, which is headquartered in Mallusk and owns the Spar, Eurospar and Vivo brands representing more than 400 stores in Northern Ireland, reported turnover of £583.2m last year and increased employee numbers by 250 to take its total workforce to more than 2,400.

However, profit on ordinary activities before taxation decreased slightly to £13.6m following significant investments in 2011, with £17m invested in new store acquisitions, refurbishments and other capital projects.

The company welcomed 27 new stores into the group – five of which were purchased in September 2011 from Heathcotes Fine Foods, while new builds, including increasing the number of large format stores, Eurospar and VivoXtra, also continued.

More than 50 stores were refurbished to introduce new product ranges and services. This is set to continue in this financial year as the group invests a further £12m in infrastructure and refurbishments. 

Ron Whitten, group finance director of the Henderson Group, said: “This has been another good year for the group. We are very pleased with the continued like-for-like growth in sales, as well as adding a number of new businesses to our Group during 2011, despite the very difficult trading climate.

“Our strong financial footing has been a result of implementing proactive strategies across the group, expanding our service portfolio and adapting our propositions to reflect the changing trends within the sector.”

Paddy Doody, sales and marketing director of Henderson Wholesale, which supplies all 400 stores, said: “Due to the current challenging economic conditions, we are more focused than ever on continuing to provide the best customer service, value for money, operational efficiency and management of our cost base. We made a major investment into new sites and technologies last year and our aim is to keep the spotlight on every aspect of the business.”

Over recent years, Henderson Group has enjoyed continued growth at both wholesale and retail levels. As part of its strategic plans, the company has placed a strong focus on its ‘Famous for Fresh’ ethos and in 2011 recorded that over 75% of its local fresh produce was produced, packed and distributed in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. To help drive this strategy forward, the group appointed a fresh food director, Neal Kelly, in late 2011.