The deal - at the due diligence stage - would boost turnover at CJ Lang’s company-owned stores division to almost £80m and lift store numbers to 70, a spokesman said.
“Legal advisers on both sides are still looking at the deal, but if everything goes to plan, we should acquire 17 of Gillespie’s 18 stores by May.”
AJ Gillespie operates 18 Spar stores in Ayrshire and is ranked 42 in The Grocer Top 50 with sales of £18.8m in the year to April 2003. Staff at the stores, which at an average of 1,600-1,700sq ft are slightly smaller than those in CJ Lang’s estate, will all be retained. Gillespie MD Alan Gillespie said he was selling the stores because he wanted a new challenge: “There were two reasons behind the decision to sell. First, it’s hard to get new sites - we haven't had a new store since April 2002. As a result, the company had gone a bit stale.
“Second, I wanted to do other things while I am still relatively young. I plan to do a bit of development work - flats above shops and that sort of thing.”
The family would retain the company’s original store in Barassie, Troon, because his father and sister still worked there, added Gillespie.
CJ Lang has been steadily refurbishing its estate to drive up standards as competition intensified, said a spokesman. “All our stores are at the intermediate Spar Millennium standard and 25% meet the comprehensive standard.”