When retailer Spar Group expanded into Ireland and Switzerland, many wondered whether it was making a mistake, says CEO Graham O’Connor. There was good reason for concern. SA grocery retailers (besides Shoprite) have not been all that successful abroad. Woolworths and Pick n Pay got into a world of trouble when they bought chains in Australia. However, Spar’s overseas forays have been mostly successful so far. Its Irish operation has gone from strength to strength, with turnover rising from R16.89bn in 2015 to R22.49bn in the year to end-September 2018. There was a similar story with profit before tax, which jumped from R182.1m to R537.9m over the same period. The performance of the Ireland operation was indicative of the group’s performance for the 2018 financial year. Overall, Spar’s revenue rose 6% to R103bn and operating profit increased 7.9% to R2.77bn. Spar’s Southern African operation also produced strong numbers in a difficult economy, increasing turnover 6.7% to R68.8bn. Op...

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