Iceland boss Malcolm Walker has declared his new The Food Warehouse format a success and said he planned to open three more outlets by next year.
Having opened the first 10,000 sq ft outlet in Stoke-on-Trent last week, Walker told The Grocer the second branch would open in Wrexham in three weeks, with a third in Pontypridd opening mid-November and a fourth on London’s Old Kent Road next year.
“We opened at nine o’clock and by 11 o’clock decided it’s a good idea,” he said, describing the format as a “bigger and better freezer centre.”
“We’ve got 850 shops and, more or less, they are all identical. To move to the next step you’ve got to do something a bit more radical. We started out in loose frozen foods, then we became a freezer centre catering to people with big chest freezers in the garage à la Bejam and then we evolved into a ready meals shop. It’s constant evolution.”
The next step was for Iceland to sell products such as whole lobsters and whole salmon, but its existing stores were not large enough to do this. Instead, such products would be offered through The Food Warehouse, Walker said. “We’ve got a lot of price points for £20, which for us is good.”
The new format means Iceland will now actively target retail park locations. “Historically we’ve kept away from retail parks because the footprints have been too big for us,” Walker said. “This enables us to open on retail parks and to have a slightly wider range.”
But he added he had “no idea” how many more stores overall he would open. “Last year we opened 40 stores, this year probably 40 stores, and some might be larger units on retail parks.”
Walker also said the current trading environment was the toughest he had known in 40 years “and quite where it ends up I don’t think any of us know, really.”