Sales at Tates, the 185-strong chain of Spar stores owned by AF Blakemore, have smashed through the £200m barrier.
The rise, to £213.9m for the year to April, represents a £3.9m increase on company sales forecasts.
Managing director Geoff Hallam put the increase down to the focus on fresh and chilled, the Spar Real Deals promotional programme and strong summer sales boosted by good weather.
The firm, number two in The Grocer Top 50 ranking of independents, has seen profits rise from £2.3m in 2001 to £5m last year and opened its 185th store at East Midlands Airport this week. It is now looking at acquiring further stores throughout the year and the tally is expected to reach 200 by the end of 2004.
Hallam said the company was continuously on the lookout for potential acquisitions and that the necessary funds were available.
Tates is continuing to focus on its fresh foods offer, with these items now delivered from the company depot - rather than from suppliers - and in smaller cases to make it easier for stores to handle.
The chain is also concentrating more on its bagged salads and prepacks.
Tates spent £6.2m refurbishing 23 stores last year, with the cost
of an average refit £350,000, or even more if this included an onsite post office.
The costs were due to increased expenditure on new refrigeration units, especially in the wine and beer departments. Hallam said the refurbished stores had already shown substantial sales increases, paticularly in the departments where the new refrigeration had been installed. He added: “We are proposing to refurbish more than 30 stores this year and place more emphasis on chilled and fresh produce.
The company has now brought 90% of its stores up to Spar Millennium standard and is also rolling out new technology that includes touch screen tills and the chip and PIN payment system.
Hallam said the growth in sales was a “tremendous achievement” and the firm had introduced a bonus scheme for managers as a result. The scheme rewards managers at the rate of £1 a week for every £1,000 of sales.
Amy Balchin

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