Sainsbury is on the hunt for more acquisitions within the convenience sector following the purchase of Bells Stores.
The multiple raised concerns among many in the convenience sector after it bought Bells’ 54-store portfolio, ranked 15 in The Grocer Top 50, this week for a reported £21.6m.
But Sara Weller, deputy MD of Sainsbury’s Supermarkets, told The Grocer the acquisition of Bells was “not a one-off” but a piece in a jigsaw.
“Convenience is a market where there are considerable
growth opportunities for us,” said Weller. “Up to now it’s been done organically but now we’re keen to accelerate our growth.”
Weller said the Sainsbury c-store estate could reach 1,000 stores in three to five years in order to reach the critical mass needed to create efficiencies in its c-store supply chain.
Bells’ joint managing director Steven Bell is being kept on to run Bells, along with fellow joint MD David Graham. Both will also provide expertise for JS’s overall c-store logistics operation. “Steven Bell’s experience will be valuable as we expand,” said Weller.
But Sainsbury’s move led to calls from industry figures for intervention from the OFT.
Federation of Wholesale Distributors director general Alan Toft said the Office of Fair Trading must review its definitions of one-stop and top-up shopping to halt the big corporates moving into the small store sector.
“The best solution is a 12-month moratorium on supermarket acquisitions of convenience chains which would allow the OFT to get its ducks in a row.”
Spar marketing director Susan Darbyshire agreed the competition authorities needed to give clearer guidance on what constituted market and geographical dominance.
And Big Food Group chief executive Bill Grimsey said: “This does raise the longer term prospect that consumers will cease to have a real choice in their neighbourhoods.”
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>>p35 Part of a new jigsaw