The Co-operative Group has bought 15 Budgens convenience stores as part of expansion plans for its Co-operative Food retailers.
The Group has bought the stores for an undisclosed fee from Booker Group, the UK’s largest food wholesaler, which also owns Londis. Most of the stores are in the London and the South East.
The expansion of the Group’s retail policy includes the hiring of three new acquisition managers. James Harrison, David McQuaker and Simon Finlay have all joined the acquisitions team and bring with them over 55 years of experience in the retail sector from organisations such as William Hill, Morrisons and Tesco.
Mr Harrison will focus on the south of England, Mr McQuaker on Scotland and northern England, and Mr Finlay on central England.
Mr Finlay said: “The Co-op is a truly special business with a rich history and unique commitment to local communities, but what really drew me to the role was the size of the opportunity.
“We delivered nearly 100 convenience stores last year, far more than any other retailer, and to be part of such a big acquisitions program is very exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing what this year brings.”
The Group is now seeking freehold or leasehold sites for new store locations.
Chief executive for retail, Steve Murrells, said: “Co-op Food continues to go from strength to strength, with […] a vision to establish ourselves as the number one convenience store operator.
“Our acquisitions programme is fundamental to the success of this strategy, and in 2016 the Co-operative is actively pursuing 100 new stores. The acquisition of these Budgens stores absolutely supports our focus on convenience store retailing.”
There have been mixed fortunes for the Group’s food and drink output recently. A survey by Kantar Worldpanel showed that sales at Co-operative Food, which includes all retail societies with ‘the Co-operative’ branding, increased by 1.5% in the third quarter of 2015. This increase was attributed to Co-op Food’s rebranding as a convenience business, in keeping with the increasing trend to shop little and often.
However another study, this time by the consumer association Which?, saw Co-op Food named the worst supermarket for customer in-store satisfaction for the third year in a row.