THE Co-operative Group has enhanced its position as the UK's leading convenience store business with the acquisition of the Balfour chain of 76 convenience stores and 35 newsagents.
The £ 30 million deal brings the Group's tally of stores to 1,829 and adds 126,000 sq ft of selling space in prime locations in the South, including London.
Balfour, owned by 3i and the chain's senior management team, turned in a profit last year of £ 1.4 million on a turnover of nearly £ 67 million. The Co-operative Group plans to invest £ 16 million in converting the stores to its successful Welcome convenience format.
Commenting on the acquisition, Co-operative Group Chief Executive Martin Beaumont said: `We needed to continue to build our presence in the South and add to the momentum building behind our convenience proposition.
`After integration and conversion to the Co-op Welcome brand, we will generate a significant uplift in sales and profits.`
Julian Davison, Director at 3i, said: `Balfour has developed into a highly successful southern-based chain of convenience stores during 3i's period of ownership. The Co-operative Group has beaten off strong competition to acquire the business at a time when there is a great deal of activity in this sector.`
The Group is currently digesting the Alldays estate of 630 convenience stores, which it acquired last October for £ 133 million. It is converting them at the rate of three a week and refitted stores are showing sales uplifts of around 30 per cent.
Since pursuing its convenience store strategy the Co-operative Group has gone from strength to strength.
Last year total food sales rose by 9 per cent to £ 2.6 billion and food profits jumped 52 per cent to £ 69.5 million. In the first half of this year its like for like sales in convenience stores are up 4 per cent, well ahead of the market.