Forecourt retailer Euro Garages has vowed to continue its rapid expansion after posting an impressive 26% rise in full-year profits.

Pre-tax profits for the year to 31 July leapt to £9.1m, compared with £7.2m the year before, on sales up 5% to £242.2m.

The retailer, which is number six on The Grocer's Top 50 ranking of independent grocery retailers, was only formed in 2001 but already has 78 forecourt sites in north west England and the Midlands. It has recently acquired an 11-acre site in Ashby-de-la-Zouche and three-acre sites in Uttoxeter and Blackburn.

The profit growth was a result of the company increasing its buying power, enabling it to improve operating margins, said director Mohsin Issa.

The recently acquired Blackburn site would become the new HQ for Euro Garages, which currently has its base in Darwen on the outskirts of Blackburn, he added. The site would include a flagship forecourt that would act as a training academy for the retailer's 700 staff, as well as an innovation centre to trial new technologies and services.

The retailer will also be submitting plans for the redevelopment of a motorway services area on the M61 in Chorley, Lancashire, within the next few weeks. "Current conditions in the property sector have enabled us to buy, develop and redevelop sites cheaper and quicker than before," Issa said. "We're therefore continuing with a selective acquisition and redevelopment programme."

In August, high street baker Greggs opened its first forecourt concession in Euro Garages' recently refurbished Blackford Bridge forecourt store in Bury. Euro Garages finance director Martin Ashcroft said the relationship was "developing well" but was still at an early stage.

"The forecourt sector is a tough market if you're not clear about what you are trying to achieve," he added. "The days of selling fuel, cigarettes and crisps from a kiosk are gone. The customer demands a quality retail offering in a well merchandised retail space, with high-quality service."