Independent discounters are leading the growth. Our 2009 rankings reveal that of the six discounters that made the grade - TJ Morris, Farmfoods, B&M Retail, 99p Stores, Heron Frozen Foods and Frozen Value - five reported double or triple digit year-on-year profit growth. Farmfoods' profits grew 127% to £5m and 99p Stores' rose 120% to £315,000.
TJ Morris, B&M Retail and Heron Frozen Foods were three of the five most profitable companies. TJ Morris, at £34.4m, also made the biggest profit overall, making up a third of the total £105.3m profit recorded by the 50 independents.
"Business is as good as it's ever been for us," said TJ Morris operations director Joe Morris. "We're set to open 30 stores in the next six months, and welcome more than 1.5 million customers every week."
Thanks to the recession, attitudes toward discount chains have changed, claimed Hussein Lalani, commercial director of 99p Stores, which was one of four new Top 50 entrants.
"When we first opened at the start of the millennium, our customers were hardened bargain hunters," he said. "Now they include professionals fed up of inflated supermarket prices."
But it wasn't just good news for discounters. Performance was strong across the board, with sales rising 8% to £4.6bn. The number of staff also rose 12%, while store numbers rose 3%. Profit rose 10% to £105.3m, while profit margins rose from 2.2% to 2.3%.
The top 10 companies outperformed smaller independents, however, with sales up 9% to £2.9bn and profit up 17% to £86m.
Ben's was the fastest-growing company on the list, while forecourt operator Euro Garages increased its sales by £72m. CTN and c-store chain Martin McColl topped the list for the third year with sales of £760m.
See Top 50 Independents - 2009