Spar’s latest sales results put it on a par with Tesco, according to managing director Jerry Marwood.

He said Spar retailers’ like-for-like sales were up an average of 6.1% in the first quarter to the end of July - “keeping up” with Tesco which has just reported a 6.3% like-for-like increase for the 24 weeks to August 9.

Spar retailers, around 750 of whose sales are polled monthly at head office, reported particularly strong wine, beer and fresh produce sales in the period.

Wine and soft drink sales were both up 15%, beer 16.6% and fresh produce 5%.

The latest results also suggest tobacco smuggling may be declining, according to retail director Steve Blackmore.

Spar retailers reported a 6.4% increase in tobacco sales for the quarter to the end of July compared to last year when tobacco sales were static or in decline.

Blackmore said Spar had recruited 120 retailers over the quarter, a net increase which brought store numbers up to 2,700.

The target is to have 3,000 outlets “as soon as possible” he said, “perhaps as early as this time next year”.