The Co-operative Group has lured Tesco’s property director for China, Robert Bignold, to its property team.

Bignold, who has worked at Tesco for 16 years, joins The Co-op Group on 8 September in the new role of head of acquisitions and new store development.

He joins at a busy time for the society. The Co-op Group laid out plans in March this year to eventually double its 2,000 c-store estate by opening 100 new convenience stores in the next 12 months, and then 150 a year in subsequent years.

At the same time, it is continuing to sell off its larger stores over 10,000 sq ft and its portfolio of 645 properties that it does “not need or use.” Of those stores, one-third are empty and the remainder “occupied with tenants.”

Bignold, who was placed by Anthony Gregg Partnership, was Tesco’s property director in China for two years. Before that, he was a divisional property director responsible for Tesco’s property acquisition and town planning team in southern England and Wales, and Express store development in the UK.

“I was drawn to The Co-operative Group because of the opportunities that lie ahead, not least ensuring that the acquisitions and store development strategies match the ambition of the business to become the country’s leading convenience store retailer,” he said.

Stuart Hookins, director of portfolio and development for The Co-operative Estates, added that Bignold’s experience was the “perfect fit” for The Co-op’s property team at a time when the society was at its most acquisitive.

“Our new store development programme is really starting to build some momentum now, and Robert’s arrival will provide the leadership, experience and focus that a programme targeting 150 new stores a year requires,” he said.