B&M Express Ebbw Vale 2

The new B&M Express banner will mean shoppers unaware of Heron Foods will “know what they’re going to get,” said the CEO

Heron Foods stores are being rebranded as B&M Express because the variety discounter enjoys greater brand recognition than the food chain, its chief executive has explained.

The new B&M Express banner will mean shoppers unaware of Heron Foods will “know what they’re going to get,” B&M CEO Simon Arora told The Grocer.

B&M introduced the new name for Heron Foods on a handful of new and existing stores last autumn, after acquiring the frozen food chain in 2017. The number of B&M Expresses has since risen to about 30. The Grocer recently reported that the name was to be used as Heron expanded into new areas outside the north of England, but little has been revealed about the thinking behind the move.

“B&M enjoys something like four to five million shopper visits per week across the UK, and is a much larger business than the Heron business,” Arora said. “And as a consequence, in those parts of the country where Heron is not known, it makes more sense to badge those stores as B&M Express from a brand recognition, a brand-awareness perspective.

“Because we believe that when a shopper sees B&M Express, in a part of the country where they’re not familiar with Heron, they’ll know what they’re going to get, which is great value groceries, big brands at great savings. So that’s the thinking behind it.”

Arora spoke as B&M issued a first-quarter trading update, revealing total group revenues up 21.4% at constant currency from £797.2m to £967.7m in the 13 weeks to 29 June. Like-for-like revenue growth was 3.9%, compared with 1.6% growth in the same quarter last year.

Arora also expanded on the addition of Heron Foods’ frozen and chilled proposition to B&M stores, a move introduced as a trial in select branches last year.

A decision on rolling out frozen and chilled food further across B&M’s 632-store estate is to be taken in January 2020, once a new one million sq ft distribution centre in Bedford becomes fully operational.

“We’ll simply allow the maths of the performance of the different departments across the B&M fascia to dictate our decision,” said Arora. “So it will be the financial performance of each category, be that DIY, homewares, indoor furniture, versus frozen foods. And we’ll make the decision based on sales per square foot.”

Arora said the Bedford facility was nearing completion. “It’s all very exciting at the moment,” he said. “We’re currently fitting out with pallet racking. The builders vacate the site in the next couple of weeks. So far it’s all going well.”