South African retailer and wholesaler SPAR Group recorded group sales of 25.6 billion rand ($2 billion), up 16.9 per cent, for the 13-week trading quarter ended 31 December 2016 boosted by retail and local liquor sales.

SPAR South Africa grants licences to independent retailers to operate stores under one of the four formats, with almost all of the current 850-plus stores being independently owned. South Africa was the first country outside Europe to join the SPAR organisation. In 2013, a complete revamp of the service departments took place, focusing attention on the level of service in store and the professionalism of staff.

SPAR figures released on Friday:

* SPAR's group retail sales gained 6.1 percent

* South African sales increased 5.8 percent despite being impacted by a slow-down in the building materials business, the company said.

* Liquor sales in South Africa remained robust, with sales growth exceeding 11.3 percent.

* Sales fell 2.6 percent for the Group's Irish business following sterling weakness and the strengthening rand, spar said

* Trading was difficult in Swiss business, SPAR Holding AG, that was acquired in April last year but the company said it remains optimistic that results will improve.

* SPAR previously closed its distribution centre in Zimbabwe in November last year due to weak economic growth.

* By 1450 GMT shares in Spar fell 1.66 percent to 180.50 rand ($1 = 13.4318 rand)

In the 1960s with the emergence of grocery chains in South Africa, a group made up of eight wholesalers were given exclusive rights to the SPAR name and brand in 1963, and serviced 500 small retailers.

Over time and through many mergers and takeovers, today the SPAR Group Ltd operates 6 distribution centres and one Build it distribution centre, supplying goods and services to over 1,000 SPAR stores across southern Africa.

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