The names of former independent chains Jacksons and Bells look set to live on indefinitely under new plans by Sainsbury to make them a core plank of its c-store business.
Sainsbury’s Convenience managing director Jim McCarthy has for the first time hinted at a full-scale roll-out of the ‘Sainsbury’s at’ format across both chains’ fascias.
So far, only a handful of trial stores have been thrown under the dual-branded fascias, with 12 Bells stores sporting the Sainsbury’s name and just three Jacksons outlets carrying it.
However, McCarthy, speaking exclusively to The Grocer, said: “We are now accelerating these programmes over the next two years. It makes absolute sense to leverage the Sainsbury’s brand and bring our shopping experience to more and more communities.
“The stores offer the best of both worlds under two trusted brands and customers have been voting with their wallets, which has encouraged us to expand the number of stores.”
The news will come as a surprise to some retail analysts, who had widely expected the multiple grocer - which bought the two north east-based independent chains last year - to phase out the Jacksons and Bells names over time.
One said: “We wouldn’t have predicted this at all.
“We just naturally assumed that Sainsbury would have forced its own name to the front of shop after consumers had got used to the idea that the stores they had known and loved would be disappearing under their current guises.”
McCarthy said the decision to speed up the roll out followed encouraging trading across the stores trialled so far.
The retailer now has to decide whether to extend the programme to the entire portfolio of 55 Bells stores and the 114-strong Jacksons chain, although McCarthy said there would almost inevitably be some casualties. “Not every location may be appropriate and the role of estate management is to add in at the top and look at your poorer-performing stores and divest if necessary, as we have done with some of our Locals.”
McCarthy’s comments came after he delivered a keynote speech at a DCScentral-organised health, beauty and household conference in Stratford-upon-Avon. He told delegates that Sainsbury, which runs 267 c-stores, was still very much on the acquisition trail if the right opportunities arose.
Speaking after The Grocer last week revealed Tesco’s intention to ease off on independent chain buy-outs, McCarthy said: “We need to open new stores and acquire quality businesses.
“We will not overpay, but we do need to grow.”
Simon Mowbray