Fledgling variety store chain Alworths, launched following the collapse of Woolworths, is on the acquisition trail with a view to creating a 100-store estate.

Alworths opened for business in November last year and already has six stores, with a seventh set to open later this month in New Milton, Hampshire.

The chain was on track to hit its initial target of 22 stores, said MD Andy Latham, and was scouring the country for more sites. "We're looking for sites all over the place," he said.

"Although all our stores are in the south east at the moment, this is not by plan. It's a national search and we're looking anywhere from the Home Counties to the Lake District and up into Scotland. We're still aiming to have opened 22 stores by Christmas, but there is the potential to at least double this going forward, and go up to as many as 100 in the longer term."

Although the current stores had all opened on former Woolworths sites, he was not limiting his search to just Woolworths stores, said Latham. The chain was targeting sites in traditional market towns, ranging from 3,000 sq ft up 7,000 sq ft.

The retailer's six stores, aimed at families looking for gifts, toys, sweets and home goods, were currently trading well, Latham claimed.

"Christmas was good and the couple of weeks before Christmas, when people hit the high street to shop, probably exceeded our expectations significantly," he said. "Seasonal events have proved popular for us, with a strong Mother's Day and a very good Easter, where we were particularly strong on Easter eggs."

However, Latham said he currently had no plans to diversify further into grocery. Alworths stores currently feature a confectionery offer, including pic n' mix, supplied by Hancocks, as well as impulse lines.

"One of the key reasons I started up Alworths was because there was a lack of retailers selling toys on the high street. I want to keep to this, as well as offering products that families are after, focusing on traditional high-street shopping."