Musgrave’s Centra food retail franchise operation has opened its 400th store at Rochfortbridge Co Westmeath in Ireland.

Now the fifth largest grocery retailer in the Irish Republic with 351 stores, Centra is on course to turn over almost E1bn this year, said managing director Michael Nason.

In Northern Ireland, which the chain entered in 1997, Centra has 49 stores. Centra’s total retail sales grew 18% in 2002 to E840m, with sales in 2003 expected to clock in at about E960m, he added.

Like-for-like sales growth in 2002 topped 12%.

Average weekly turnover at Centra stores, which have an average footprint of 2,500 sq ft, is E44,000, with some stores turning over more than E80,000, said Nason. “The once-a-week major household shop is being replaced with multiple daily visits to smaller stores, and the food-to-go market is accounting for an ever increasing proportion of national food sales.”

The plan is to open some 20-25 new stores every year both in the Republic and Northern Ireland.