Scotland looks set to be a key battleground for the supermarkets in the next 12 months as Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Waitrose all kick off programmes to stamp their mark north of the border.
Tesco plans to spend £75m building its biggest UK depot there next year, which will handle its entire distribution network for Scotland. Meanwhile, Asda, Sainsbury and Waitrose are all gearing up for new store openings and closer ties with Scottish suppliers.
Tesco's 940,000 sq ft multi-temperature centre has been earmarked for Livingston, replacing the existing town depot and one in Dundee. At present, Tesco's 90 Scottish stores rely heavily on goods transported from south of the border. The scale of the site - set to employ 1,400 people if it gets planning approval to open next year - means it will have the capacity for a dedicated Scottish supply network for its stores.
Tesco distribution operations director Laurie McIlwee said it demonstrated the retailer's long-term commitment to Scottish customers. "We have invested in new stores and suppliers in Scotland. Now is the right time to create a distribution network capable of supporting them."
Asda has also been staking a claim for Scottish shoppers, putting in applications for new stores across the country. The new developments include stores in Dunbar, East Lothian, and one in Banff, which would be its most northerly store in the UK.
Meanwhile, Sainsbury and Waitrose have been meeting Scottish suppliers this month to discuss their plans. Sainsbury retail director Ken McMeikan said he would be visiting 15 to 20 potential store sites with a view to boosting its existing 24-strong estate.
In addition, Sainsbury said it had had nine consecutive quarters of growth in Scotland, which has meant a 50% growth in market share to 6% in the past two years. It plans to bolster its Scottish offer to 2,000 lines in the year ahead.
Meanwhile, Waitrose has held its first 'meet the buyer' day for suppliers in Scotland, organised in conjunction with Scottish Food and Drink. It met 50 suppliers and will now draw up a shortlist of companies with which it will work when its first Scottish store opens in Edinburgh in June.
Rachel Barnes