Spar wholesaler James Hall & Co has signed up 55 new stores in the last year and hopes to recruit a similar number over the next year.

The aggressive store recruitment drive brings the total number of stores to which it delivers from its Preston depot to 480.

The company now owns 85 stores after it bought two Somerfield stores and a store from The Co-operative Group that came on the market following The Co-op Group's acquisition of Somerfield.

"We are very positive about the prospects for c-stores, which can still do well in the recession provided they get the offer right," said retail director Peter Dodding. "We are very optimistic about strong recruitment of stores for the year ahead."

Dodding said the company's Spar Rewards loyalty scheme, launched last year, had already resulted in bonus payments of up to £10,000 per store and was supported by 360 stores.