Henderson Group, which owns and runs 72 symbol stores including Spar and Eurospar in Northern Ireland and supplies 400 shops, has revealed a “strong performance” in 2008 and expansion plans for this year.

The company did not disclose exact figures, but said that operating profit rose 10.7 per cent and turnover was up almost 12 per cent last year, when it invested in redeveloping 60 stores, recruited 28 shops into the group and opened a second “store of the future”, designed to bring down its carbon footprint.

In 2009 Henderson will spend £14m on expansion, the Store of the Future programme and co-investment with independent retailers.

Henderson financial director Rob Whitten said: “We are particularly pleased with continued like-for-like growth despite the economic climate. The improved profit performance also reflects the impact of the heavy investment in new sites and technologies.

“Due to the challenging economic conditions, the focus on continuing to provide the best customer service in class, operational efficiency and managing our cost base will remain of vital importance.”