Four of its five Swift stores will close for good, while one will be permanently converted into a standard Iceland store. There are expected to be no redundancies, as all staff are to be offered transfer to nearby Iceland stores on the same hours.
Iceland first launched the “entirely new” format in March 2021 with its first store in a converted Iceland in Longbenton, Newcastle. The four other stores are all based in London, with the last opening in Finsbury Park, in August 2022.
“It didn’t work,” Iceland executive chairman Richard Walker told The Grocer. “Clearly through the pandemic, convenience stores had done so well and it was a sector that we thought was quite interesting.
“We had confidence from opening The Food Warehouse that we could open a new fascia and meet customers’ needs and they would instantly respond.
“However, in retrospect launching a new format with separate branding wasn’t the right way of doing it.
“Particularly with convenience store retailing, I think the Iceland logo and brand is really well thought of and recognised in London and we must never underestimate that.”
Walker also suggested that Iceland had probably been a little late to the party in launching Swift, especially in London, which has expensive rents. While the sector had been very competitive following the pandemic, people were willing to travel further afield than Iceland had originally anticipated, he admitted.
“It wasn’t a waste of time. We learnt a lot as a business, and we’ve taken some learnings from Swifts and adopted them in Iceland and we’re going to keep trying new concepts and ideas,” Walker said.
One of those is the Iceland Local format. Walker confirmed Iceland was looking to expand the format after being encouraged by early sales.
The “store in a store” format launched in March, with the first site on a petrol forecourt owned and managed by SGN Retail in Fallings Park, Wolverhampton.
Last week the Grocer revealed that Stephen Thompson, the owner of Scottish c-store chain Eddy’s Food Station, had become the latest independent to operate under the Iceland Local fascia.
“It’s about finding the right partners, who’s got the right sites and what deal we can strike,” Walker said.