AF Blakemore has despatched a crack team of recruitment specialists to target city centres and high transit locations in a bid to enlist 50 independent retailers over the next 12 months. Retail director Elwyn Davies said moving into high footfall locations was key to the future success of the group, but the team would also visit rural sites. Six people from the retail operations department have been canvassing "door to door" in recent weeks, trying to persuade independent retailers to trade under the Spar fascia. They have also been calling in at stores under rival fascias to try and "poach some of the opposition", added Davies. Blakemore has set itself the target of opening 257 stores over the next five years. Joint ventures enabling the wholesaler to share the costs of buying up new stores with independents are also progressing well. Under the franchise scheme, Blakemore finds the sites, organises bank loans for retailers, and takes a 33% stake in the business. "There are already two companies running like this and four jointly owned stores will be trading by the end of the year," added Davies. Ultimately, Blakemore is looking to run about 10 stores along these lines. {{NEWS }}