B&M Bargains

The move comes three months after B&M bought frozen food discounter Heron

B&M is trialling frozen food in its stores as it embarks on the next step in its partnership with Heron Foods.

From January, a “small number” of its 552 discount stores will begin stocking frozen and an extended range of chilled food.

The announcement comes just three months after B&M swooped for frozen food discounter Heron in a £152m deal.

CEO Simon Arora said the trial would involve a mix of chilled and frozen, and branded and own-label Heron goods.

“We’re looking to learn specifically what type of product works best,” he told The Grocer.

But Arora said B&M was particularly keen to test appetite for frozen food. “There isn’t a single frozen cabinet so that’s the primary focus of our trial,” he said. “Some stores already have chilled so for chilled food, it’s more about refining the mix.”

This month, B&M posted a 7.5% increase in like-for-like sales for the 26 weeks to 23 September, and Arora said food sales were growing “in line” with that number.

Arora said he saw no reason why B&M’s largely “impulse” food shoppers wouldn’t pick up frozen goods in store.

“Just as you might on impulse pick up a jar of coffee, it may well be you’ve run out of fish fingers, so why not? Why wouldn’t you if it’s there?” he said.

“We want to take advantage of that footfall, of the four to five million people who visit B&M stores a week, through additional impulse sales.”

Arora stressed that Heron and B&M food buying teams would remain separate. “Heron will continue to have its own buying team locally at its whole head office in Humberside and B&M grocery team will continue to be based in Liverpool,” he said. “It’s envisaged they will be run separately and the reason is they are very different propositions. B&M is typically a 20,000 sq ft store that is predominantly general merchandise and Heron stores are 2,500 sq ft and purely convenience, so that’s why we’re keeping that separate.”