Investment is key for Henderson Group

Investment is key for Henderson Group
Mulgrew's EUROSPAR in Carryduff was a key independent store opening in 2023.
Henderson Group experienced another successful year, with significant projects completed within Henderson Retail and bringing even more independent retailers onboard. As Sales and Marketing Director, Paddy Doody explains, Henderson Group continues to reach milestones in many areas of its business.

Having pledged a £60 million investment programme for 2023, Henderson Group was able to provide even more capital expenditure to its retail and wholesale infrastructure and technologies, their sustainable strategies and enhance their value promise.

Last year saw a total of 109 retail projects throughout the independent and company[1]owned estate of SPAR, EUROSPAR and ViVO branded stores, with Paddy Doody describing retention and recruitment as “excellent” with 12 new stores signing up to their brands in 2023.

The Group’s innovation, tech and sustainability achievements also took a step up in the last 12 months, as Mr Doody explains.

Sales and Marketing Director at Henderson Group, Paddy Doody

“We now have over 930 stores live with EDGEPoS (the point-of-sale software created by Henderson Technology) across the UK and Australia, more than one million electronic shelf-edge labels in use in over 200 sites and self-check-outs in nearly 200 stores,” explained Paddy.

“As part of our strategic Responsible Business pillar, we announced our partnership with bp pulse to install around 200 ultra-fast and rapid charging points at our Henderson Retail sites, with over 40 already installed by year-end 2023.

“We also switched on over 1,400 solar panels on our most newly built warehouse, and we continued to invest in value deals for our shoppers across the board.

“Our value promise was enhanced with a £7.8 million investment, with £3.5m of that invested into key areas such as milk, bread and eggs.”

In terms of performance, as of end of Q3 2023, Henderson Group’s turnover rose 9.4% on 2022 to £1.313bn.

‘Our value promise was enhanced with a £7.8 million investment, with £3.5 million of that invested into key areas such as milk, bread and eggs’

“Our Foodservice company continues to grow after a challenging few covid years, delivering a sales increase of 23.5% in the past year (up to end Q3 2023) thanks to their investment in tech and e-commerce repositioning.

“The business now processes almost half of its sales online, a strategy that has served both the company and its customers well.

“Our profits will once again be invested back into our business to create opportunities for our retailers, support our local fresh food suppliers and importantly, bring even more value to the shelves for our shoppers.”


Throughout 2023, Henderson Retail completed 35 company-owned store projects, and invested £30m into many of its flagship branded stores, allowing them to extend, update and renovate, including adding new services from new butchery and bakery counters to the new in-store production kitchen at EUROSPAR Victoria Road in Carrickfergus.

“We created 22,506 sq ft of additional retail space throughout the Henderson Retail network in the last year,” said Paddy Doody.

“With the accelerated change within the industry and shopper demands we prioritised updating our stores to include new food to go offerings with our Delish deli brand, extended to incorporate butchery counters, converted SPAR stores to EUROSPAR supermarkets, all to fit the needs of the communities within which they serve.”

Evolving to meet those needs is hugely important for the company, and Henderson Retail now operates 106 SPAR and EUROSPAR stores in Northern Ireland.

“We are a significant presence in many neighbourhoods and we need to provide quality services and products. The stores are quite literally the shop front of our business, they’re where our shoppers form their opinions on us and decide where their loyalties lie, so we need to be a community hub and I feel we are achieving that now more than ever.”

EUROSPAR Killyleagh, the fresh foods superstore operated by Henderson Retail opened last year.

For their independent retailers, they saw 74 significant projects in 2023, including a new build EUROSPAR in Carryduff for the Mulgrews, as well as new build SPAR stores in Kesh, Rostrevor and Coopers Mill in Dundonald. Maxol also invested £2.4m to build a new 2,647 sq ft SPAR store at their Braid River site, which includes their second EV charging hub in NI, opening in December last year.

“Many of our independents are also bringing our popular Delish deli counter into their stores, plus extending their Barista Bar services, while taking advantage of our SPAR Bakery line,” added Paddy.

“Well-known retailers, the Knox family, rebranded all three of their Nisa stores in County Armagh and County Down to SPARs, and have another new SPAR opening in 2024. They’re all fantastic examples of building for the community around them. An additional 37,433 sq. ft. of retail space was created throughout the independent estate in 2023.”

Enhancing their value promise has been a key area of focus for the Group, and as Mr Doody mentioned, they invested £3.5m in key areas such as milk, bread and eggs.


Particular highlights included a successful second year of their Mega Deals campaign, and the biggest year of investment yet into the flagship deal campaign – 12 Deals of Christmas, which brings their retailers a huge sales opportunity in Q4 of the year.

“Throughout the year, EUROSPAR offers over a thousand products price matched to Tesco, while price drops on thousands of household essentials are available day-in, day-out.

“Another key target we met in 2023 was the previously mentioned switch on of 1,494 solar panels on our newest warehouse at our Group headquarters in Mallusk. They’re capable of generating 700,000 units of energy each year and is the equivalent of taking 309 cars off the road, an annual saving of 320,263kg in CO2 emissions.”

At the end of 2023, Henderson Retail announced a partnership with bp pulse to install 200 ultra-fast and rapid EV chargers throughout its company-owned estate.

Having cemented their new partnership with bp pulse, and with over 40 chargers already installed, Paddy added some of their independent retailers have also switched on their own electric charging points at sites across the country.

“This will mean we are delivering one of Northern Ireland’s largest networks of EV charging points, a huge boost for the infrastructure here and those 18,000+ EV drivers we have in Northern Ireland.

“When it comes to independently owned stores, last year we invested £19.7m alongside our independent retailers to significantly increase the amount of retail space available at stores across Northern Ireland in 2023.

“In total, 109 significant retail projects – from new openings, conversions and extensions – were completed throughout our independent and company owned store network, representing a total investment of £49.7m.”


Inevitably, the Group has faced the same challenges as other businesses, with the cost-of-living crisis and rising business costs continuing to put pressure on consumers and retailers alike. Amidst the ongoing Stormont stalemate, businesses are calling for politicians to return to work in order to provide some stability for the people of Northern Ireland.

“Like all industries and businesses here have stated, a functioning assembly is vital for people in Northern Ireland to make decisions for the people of Northern Ireland. Recent talks are indicating we are on the home stretch for the Executive to get back up and running, and we hope that is sooner rather than later,” said Paddy.

“When it comes to helping its retailers with the cost of doing business, Henderson Group is continuously innovating and trialling new concepts to bring improved cost efficiencies at store level, including self-check-outs, our EDGEPoS systems, electronic shelf edge labelling etc.

“We also co-invest with our retailers to help future-proof their businesses so that they can implement many of our innovations and reap rewards in the long-run.

Henderson Wholesale became the third company at Henderson Group to achieve Gold Investors in People Accreditation.

“For the benefit of both our shoppers and our retailers, our level of investment in our value strategy will continue at the same level this year. We source locally as a priority which helps us drive down costs as well as keeping money in the local economy. Opening more EUROSPAR supermarkets in 2023 enabled us to bring even more supermarket offerings and prices to the doorsteps of our shoppers.

“We have stores in every community across Northern Ireland, and helping shoppers through the cost of living crisis is important, so we were also very proud to launch our partnership with FareShare in 2023, which saw SPAR donate £250,000, the equivalent of providing one million meals to its service users. Meanwhile, our Henderson Retail stores continued their foodbank donations throughout the year.

“At the tail end of 2023, we launched a Cosy Christmas giveaway, which saw 92 shoppers win £300 each at a time when they need it most. Our teams heard some stark yet heartwarming stories of who the money was going to and how much they needed it, and it reminds us that our stores really are hubs of the local community and while we cannot fix the root of this problem, we can certainly help to ease the strain for our shoppers and local communities.

“This is an ongoing problem which goes beyond our industry, however we will always strive to deliver on choice and value throughout our stores, support our local suppliers and our local foodbanks and community organisations.”

‘Henderson Group is continuously innovating and trialling new concepts to bring improved cost efficiencies at store level’

In the face of these challenges, the Group and many of their retailers have reaped rewards for their commitment and development, taking home awards and titles at some of the most prestigious awards ceremonies in the industry, something which Henderson Group is “really thrilled to see” added Paddy.

“Both our independent and company[1]owned stores swept the board at ceremonies such as the Retail Industry Awards and the Forecourt Trader Awards. Closer to home, our independents and company-owned stores were successful at the NR Awards, which as a local awards ceremony, makes it even fiercer competition!

“Awards aren’t just a mark of success but they’re a validation for hard work and a mark of respect from our peers in the industry. Our retailers are some of the most hardworking, forward thinking, innovative people in the industry, and why shouldn’t they be on the same par both nationally and internationally?

“On a brand level, it strengthens SPAR’s reach and reputation. It’s an opportunity for us to communicate just what having our brands above retailers’ doors can do for their business, and for the industry to see how we have diversified, how we’re engaging even more with our local communities, and how we’re strengthening our relationships with local producers and farmers. Awards schemes are essentially a showcase for great business and that is an important place to be for our retailers and our business.”

Henderson Group celebrated many anniversaries with independent retailers throughout 2023, including with Charlie and Ruth Hamilton (pictured with Paddy Doody).


Looking ahead to what 2024 has instore for them, Paddy said the Henderson Group will continue to “invest, invest, invest”.

“We will invest in our retail partners, with whom we currently have nine major projects planned for 2024, representing an investment of £11m.

“33 of our independent retailers will also invest in their businesses, including that new build with the Knox family.

“From a company owned perspective, the investment will certainly continue with the team already working on 25 projects for this year.

“Our retailers can rely on our constant investment in our innovation, our technologies and our sustainability strategies.

“Part two of our solar powered warehouses project continues in 2024, with panels planned to be installed on Henderson’s Hyde Park warehouse, which will service Henderson Wholesale’s ambient range of products alongside the refrigerated Henderson Foodservice warehouse.”

When it comes to looking forward to the rest of 2024, Paddy says the industry is looking at decreasing inflation but still high costs relative to sales, energy and wages in particular. “We have an unpredictable political situation locally and in Ukraine and the Middle East, and there could be challenges around labour with low unemployment and high wage expectations which might impact staff recruitment and retention.”

With a workforce that has increased to over 5,000 staff, he added they have celebrated significant milestones with their independent retailers in 2023, with 15 retail partners celebrating milestone anniversaries totalling over 500 years serving their local communities.

Paddy finished: “We have a motivated work force and some of the best retailers in the world, many of those have been long-term partners of the Group, and we share our success with them and their achievements.

“They are pillars of their local communities, helping us bring value and provenance to shoppers, while supporting many charities and organisations. In 2023, alongside our staff and retailers, we raised over £700,000 for charity partners including Marie Curie, Cancer Fund for Children, Tearfund, FareShare and Action Mental Health.

“It is that spirit of partnership and motivation that will see their successes continue into 2024.”