UNITED Co-operatives has announced the sale of seven of its 15 Sunwin department stores to the Peterborough-based Anglia Society for an undisclosed sum.
The stores are in Harrogate, Skipton, Ilkley, Rochdale and Stockport ? as well as two in Keighley ? and although there are no immediate plans to sell off any of the eight remaining businesses, the News understands that United will listen to offers for them as department store retailing is no longer viewed as one of the society's core activities.
United Chief Executive Peter Marks commented: "Since the merger two years ago between United Norwest and Yorkshire Co-operatives, we have been integrating our businesses to ensure the correct retail structure to compete effectively in the markets in which we operate.
"We have concluded that we are too diverse a business to remain in all our current sectors and we must concentrate on those where we have, or can achieve, a dominant market position."
Added Mr Marks: "We are delighted that, in the case of seven of our stores, we have been able to conclude a deal with a major co-op, which is a specialist operator of department stores and which has a record of significant investment in the field."
Mr Marks said that all 350 staff at the stores to be acquired by Anglia would transfer to the new owner under TUPE regulations. The transfer will be completed early next year.
A spokesman for Anglia Co-op said: "This is a fine example of two societies co-operating and working together to maintain a significant department store presence in the area.
"The acquired stores will link in well with the three Westgate department stores currently trading in Scunthorpe, Hartlepool and Redcar, taking our department store and home furnishing portfolio to 32 units."
United's remaining Sunwin department stores are at Bradford, Sheffield, Brighouse, Todmorden, Ripon, Widnes, Sale and Hanley.