A big push on fresh food helped boost full-year sales at Tates by 6.8% in the year to April.
The c-store company, ranked number one in The Grocer Top 50, saw pre-tax profit leap 35% to £4.6m, while like-for-like sales were up 3.5%.
Almost a third of cash profit at the chain ­ the company-owned store division of Spar wholesaler AF Blakemore ­ was generated by fresh food which accounts for 21.8% of sales.
Food to go ­ a second growth area ­ has been rolled out to 60 stores in the 187-strong estate.
MD Geoff Hallam said a new sales-based ordering system would also drive availability and reduce shrinkage. Such measures were essential as operating costs such as wages, national insurance, pensions and property insurance were going through the roof, he said.
Tates aims to open about 15 new stores a year with the aim of hitting 250 stores by April 2005. Up to £4m will be pumped into refurbishments this year.
Full-year sales through Blakemore's Willenhall distribution centre rose 10.6% to £282m, a figure that will be boosted significantly by a clutch of recent supply deals.
Total sales at AF Blakemore in the year to May 2003 were up 7.9% to £544m.

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