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.