Northern Irish Spar wholesaler Henderson Group has reported a 10.1% increase in pre-tax profit to £9.8m last year on sales up 8.3% to £407m for 2007.

Henderson said wholesalers and independents in the province were coming under fiercer competition than ever from the multiples. "The Northern Irish convenience market is attracting attention from big players such as Tesco, Sainsbury's and The Co-op," said Henderson Group's marketing director Paddy Doody.

Investment has been key to Henderson's success. Supplying 400 independent retailers and owner of 60 stores, it invested £18m in 2007 and plans to spend a further £20m this year improving both its own and independents' stores. A £3.3m marketing campaign will include TV, radio and outdoor ads.

As well as opening 17 new stores under the Spar, Eurospar, Vivo and Vivoxtra brands in the past 12 months, Henderson has also launched Vivo Essentials, a new c-store format. More than 40 refurbished Vivo Essentials stores have now opened across the province.

Henderson Group has also opened a concept store in Loughview, Lurgan, the first store to be opened as part of Spar UK's Stores of the Future programme. The 4,600 sq ft store features a seated food court operated by Subway and Irish fast food provider Supermacs, and self-service checkouts.