Henderson Retail is to spend £12m refurbishing its store estate this year and expects to buy stores from struggling rivals.

The Spar and Vivo retailer and symbol operator plans to make a significant investment in new stores.

"We continue to see opportunities to acquire new stores as existing retailers seek to exit a difficult environment," said FD Ron Whitten. "Furthermore, in 2010 we will invest more than £12m in redeveloping our existing portfolio."

The number of stores run by the company had fallen from 73 to 70 in the past year as it closed unprofitable stores. But despite the closures, turnover excluding fuel had risen 5% to £134.3m in the year to December and pre-tax profits had risen 28% to £5m, which meant the business had cash to invest in the future, he said.

Although the market in Northern Ireland was tough, there was still a demand for well-run c-stores, he said. "Like-for-like growth has been difficult as consumers tighten their belts. Growth in own-brand and value ranges has shown the greatest opportunity."

The foodservice division of the Henderson Group has also announced expansion plans. It has bought Ireland's fastest-growing café chain The Streat and is to move to a new depot in Mallusk.