Spar-owner BWG increased sales by 7% in four-month period to end of January

Irish retail group’s South African parent hails its ‘impressive’ performance

BWG Foods, the owner in Ireland of retail brands such as Spar and Londis, increased its sales here by 6.9 per cent in a roughly four-month period to the end of January, according to a trading update issued by its listed South African parent The Spar Group.

BWG, which is on course for annual sales of close to €1.7 billion this year, said the reintroduction of anti-virus restrictions in Ireland in November and December had led to “mixed results” across its retail network.

The group also includes XL, Mace and Eurospar stores, as well as a foodservice division that supplies products to hotels and restaurants. It also owns the Appleby Westward group that operates Spar in the southwest of England, and represents about 13 per cent of BWG's business.

The Spar Group said the larger-format Eurospar network was negatively affected early in the trading period by customers who chose to socialise more as the hospitality sector opened up, spending less on their weekly grocery shopping. Its food service division, meanwhile, suffered after restrictions were reintroduced.

Overall, however, The Spar Group hailed BWG’s performance for the period as “impressive” in the face of the restrictions. It was 11.5 per cent ahead of the same period two years ago, prior to the pandemic.

Ownership

BWG is wholly owned by The Spar Group, which first invested in the business in 2014 when it paid €55 million for an 80 per cent stake to help it restructure boomtime property debts. Its management team, led by chief executive and former Ibec president, Leo Crawford, sold the remaining 20 per cent to The Spar Group for €102 million in a performance-related deal, with the final tranche changing hands at the end of 2020.

The Spar Group, which reports its interim results next month, posted overall sales growth of 5.8 per cent to 45.5 billion Rand (€2.65bn) in the trading period to the end of January 29th. In addition to its operations in its home country and Ireland, it operates retail units in Switzerland and Poland.