THE Co-operative Group is to sell on 75 of its Alldays convenience stores to regional co-ops.
A multi-million pound deal to be completed over the next two months will see Midlands Co-op and Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester Society each acquiring 30 former Alldays stores in their respective trading areas.
In addition, Colchester & East Essex Co-op and Ipswich & Norwich Co-op are in negotiations to buy seven outlets each, while one outlet at Caistor, Lincolnshire, will transfer to Lincoln Society.
Midlands Co-op says the acquisition of the 30 stores in the West Midlands, Staffordshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire will see the society's turnover increase by around £ 40 million and take its number of food retailing outlets to 155 with another three new-builds under construction.
All 450 staff currently employed by the Co-operative Group will transfer employment to Midlands Co-op and Chief Executive Willie Tucker said: "The first stage leading up to Christmas is to successfully integrate the staff and business operations into Midlands Co-op.
"Stage two will involve investing substantially in the new stores and this programme of refurbishment and re-branding will start immediately after Christmas."
Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester Society confirmed it had acquired 30 stores from Co-operative Retail and said in a brief statement that the outlets would all be refurbished and re-branded over the next six to nine months.
Ipswich & Norwich spokesman Bill Knowles said his society's acquisition of seven stores in Suffolk towns and villages ? including two in Ipswich itself ? were expected to be completed within the next couple of months, with work on re-branding and refurbishing starting as soon as possible afterwards.
Colchester & East Essex Co-op spokeswoman Julie Hume said the society was in ongoing discussions with a view to acquiring a number of former Alldays stores in or near Colchester.
Added Ms Hume: "The discussions are progressing and in the event of success, the acquired stores will continue to trade under the Alldays name for the time being at least."
The Co-operative Group bought the chain of 600 Alldays-owned convenience stores plus 30 independent franchises from the receiver for £ 133 million last October in a deal widely acclaimed within the industry as a bargain transaction in the light of later sell-offs.
A Group spokesman told the News that the sales of the 75 stores to five regional societies were expected to be completed by mid-November, but declined to give further details.