Mace will now be unified under one owner in England, Wales and Scotland for the first time - following Somerfield's decision on Friday to sell its interest in the c-store brand to Palmer & Harvey McLane.

Somerfield bought the rights to the Mace brand in Scotland as part of its acquisition of Aberness last March.

However, its involvement with the business has not been a happy experience, culminating in a series of defections by disaffected Mace retailers to Spar in recent weeks.

As The Grocer reported on Saturday, stores at Glencoe and Inverness have followed top Mace retailers John Murray and Innes MacDonald in leaving the group. In all, Spar has won 10 stores from Mace in Scotland.

Somerfield admitted on Friday that symbol group retailing was proving to be a distraction at a time when it was expanding rapidly through acquisitions such as the recent deal to buy 118 forecourts from Texaco.

"Somerfield believes that P&H is best placed to secure the future success of the Mace brand in Scotland," said head of convenience Steve Henshaw.

There was no news on the fate of the stores owned by Aberness and trading under the Mace banner.

But the two Aberness depots will be surplus to requirements and will close with the loss of 75 jobs.

P&H will instead supply the 70 Mace stores in Scotland through its distribution centre in Dunfermline.

The deal gives P&H full control over the Mace brand on the British mainland. It bought the rights to Mace in England and Wales from Booker in 2000. Today, it supplies 245 stores trading under the banner as well as a further 100 trading as Mace Express.

P&H has recently given Mace in England and Wales a facelift - unveiling a new blue, white and stainless steel logo for stores.