Leading independent retail chain Tates is riding high after announcing a record £5.4m profit for the year to April.

The Spar retailer, number four in The Grocer's Top 50 ranking of the UK's biggest independent retailers, generated £275m sales and recorded a profit increase of £1.1m on the previous year. This took its profit margin from 1.8% to 2%.

Tates MD Geoff Hallam announced the figures to delegates at the annual Tates Store Managers Conference in Disneyland Paris this week.

Only last year, the retailer revealed it was putting plans in place to double its profit margin over the next few years after seeing its bottom line badly hit by a surge in energy costs. Since then it has spent £9m on refurbishments and acquisitions. The number of stores is now expected to rise from 213 to 250 by 2010.

Hallam warned that "ever more aggressive competition" meant there was no time for staff to rest on their laurels. "Price, product, innovation, location, customer service and brand need to be right," he said.

n North west Spar distributor James Hall & Company has introduced a bonus payment scheme that will enable retailers to pocket up to £7,000 a year in return for increased category discipline and buying loyalty.

The wholesaler has set aside £1.25m for the Spar Rewards scheme, due to go live on July 14. The initiative, open to all Northern Guild members, builds on the current Multiple Retail Group scheme - a national Spar agreement that enables stores to receive retrospective payments based on stocking agreed lines.