The Northern Ireland operation of retail giant Dunnes Stores last year returned to profit to record pre-tax profits of £6.42m (€7.25m).

New accounts filed by Dunnes Stores Bangor show that the company recorded the return to profit as revenues increased by 17% from £101.75m to £118.76m.

The pre-tax profits of £6.4m follow a pre-tax loss of £8.1m in 2020 - a positive swing of £14.5m.

The family owned Irish retailer in 2018 completed the shut down of all of its stores in England and Scotland but continues to operate in Northern Ireland where it has 15 stores, including four in Belfast, two in Derry and two in Newry.

According to the directors' report signed off by director Dr Anne Heffernan, the group's and company's balance sheets "are robust with strong cash flow and no external funding".

In a report accompanying the accounts, Dr Heffernan states "as a family company with generations of accumulated experience, we see things in the longer term and take our key business decisions accordingly".

In a rare statement on the progress of the Dunnes business, Dr Heffernan states that "Dunnes Stores philosophy is summed up by 'Better Value'".

"The board of directors believes that this philosophy underpins the success of the company in its first 75 years and it continues to guide us into the future, " Dr Heffernan said.

"As a retail business, almost every decision we make is about providing customers with the widest, freshest range of food products and the most exciting fashion and homewares brands and in-store experience," she said.

"All of our stakeholders work hard to achieve this. We know we depend on all of our people and partners and we aim to be a responsible partner and employer," she added.

Numbers employed by Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd reduced by 47 from 1,034 to 987 and staff costs remained at the same level at £14.89m.

Its pre-tax loss also takes into account non-cash depreciation costs of £2.8m.

The most recent Kantar survey shows that Dunnes Stores has the largest share of the grocery market sector in Ireland at 22.3%.

At the end of last year, the company's accumulated profits stood at £45.19m while its cash funds increased from £26.45m to £38.06m.

The company's cost of sales last year increased from £80.35m to £90.89m with operating expenses decreasing from £24.8m to £21.7m.

Dunnes is one of the largest private employers in Ireland operating 142 stores in Ireland, Spain and Northern Ireland. It employs 15,000 people.

The first Dunnes Stores was opened by store founder, the late Ben Dunne on Cork's Patrick Street in 1944.

Reporting by Gordon Deegan