As Tesco, Sainsbury and now Somerfield have started snapping up c-store chains they have simply been following in the footsteps of a far more practised acquisitions expert, the Co-operative Group.
While its larger rivals were still fighting it out for big out of town stores, the Co-operative Group quadrupled its number of stores over five years, buying a number of smaller chains in addition to CRS, Alldays and Balfour.
Malcolm Hepworth, chief operating officer for retail, admitted that, for once, it had been beaten to the punch on Aberness. “Somerfield learned a lesson when we beat it to Balfour. You have to be prepared to move quickly and decisively.”
Prices have soared in recent months and Hepworth conceded that Tesco and Sainsbury would always have deeper pockets.
“Being priced out of the market is a concern, but I am
confident we can still buy chains,” he said.
And as interest in franchising grows, with Budgens and Somerfield both offering options for retailers,the Co-operative Group could also look for growth in this area.
It acquired 29 franchisees as part of the Alldays deal and Hepworth said: “We’ve evaluated the model and it looks strong. It could be an area we look at as long as it does not detract from our other operations.”