Henderson subsidiaries all report growth as group heads towards £1 billion sales

Henderson Group owns the Spar brand in Northern Ireland
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE main subsidiaries within the family-run John Henderson (Holdings) operation, which is the parent company of retail giant Spar in Northern Ireland, have filed their annual accounts for 2017.

And it points to the market-leading firm continuing on an almost inexorable path towards becoming a billion pound business in the coming years.

In May John Henderson (Holdings), led by brothers Geoff and Martin Agnew, reported a turnover of £759m during 2017 - up 8.5 per cent from £699m a year earlier.

Now its main offshoots - Henderson Wholesale, Henderson Retail and Henderson Foodservice - have all filed their own individual company results for the year, breaking down where the group's main revenues came from.

Other branches of the company include the likes of Henderson Group Property, which oversees the its multi-million pound property estate and is involved in property development, trading and investment; and Henderson Technology, which provides its IT and support services function.

Latest accounts filed at Companies House show that Henderson Wholesale - which holds the franchise for Spar, European and Vivo in the north and provides a marketing, advisory and distribution service to more than 450 retailers - contributed the biggest chunk of turnover to the parent.

Its sales during the year were £479.1m against £445.4m in 2016, and although its operating profit slipped back slightly from £10.1m to £9.9m, the gross margin lifted to 9.26 per cent from 8.96 per cent previously.

Retained earnings for the year in the wholesale division were more than £115 million, a significant rise on the previous 12 months (£104m).

Staff numbers at Henderson Wholesale went up from 476 to 523 over the year, leading to a hike in the wages bill to £21.8m. The directors' remuneration was £2.2m.

Henderson Retail, which owns and operates 79 supermarkets, neighbourhood and forecourt stores, made a sales contribution of £342.3m to the overall business mix (up from £315.9m a year earlier).

Profit before tax rose to £7.7m from £6.8m, and again there was an increase in the gross margin (up to 17.6 per cent).

Bottom line profit went up to £6.2m while retain earnings rose to £48.3m from £42.1m.

Henderson Retail's staff numbers soared by more than 300 from 2.123 to 2.459 in the trading year, and its wages bill came in at a shade under £29m, with its directors pocketing £909m.

The third main wing of the holding business is Henderson Foodservice, which supplies and delivers 6,500 different ambient frozen and chilled food to 4,500 customers across Ireland including hotels, schools, restaurants, fast food outlets, hospitals, nursing homes, cafes, sandwich bars and retail convenience stores.

Turnover here increased by nearly 18 per cent to £98.6m against £83.7m previously, operating profit went to £2.6m from £1.7m and gross margin lifted to 21.44 per cent, mainly driven by the mix of business changing between independent and contract business.

Foodservice has 277 staff on its books (up from 255) and paid £10.5m in wages, including £668,602 to its directors.

In a strategic report accompanying the overall group results, directors said they were pleased with the growth in sales across all channels and formats "driven by strong performance in both ambient and fresh food categories, with both footfall and basket spend increasing in our supplied retailer stores".

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