Frozen food discounter Cooltrader has completed a deal with private equity house Gresham to finance a fast-track expansion of the business.
Cooltrader has a dozen freezer centres around Manchester, Liverpool and North Wales after opening its first in Wrexham in July 2001.
It was founded by Iceland’s former chairman and group executive Malcolm Walker and two other ex-Iceland directors, Andy Pritchard and Andy Errington, in April 2001 and was featured in The Grocer’s Ones To Watch (February 21, p36), after just missing out on a place in The Grocer Top 50.
Its stores range from 1,500 sq ft to 3,500 sq ft. Frozen food represents 65% of sales.
Cooltrader has the supply chain infrastructure in place to service up to 60 stores, so the deal with Gresham should help chief executive Andy Pritchard reach his goal of opening 10 new stores annually for at least the next five years.
Pritchard said: “This is an excellent deal that will give us a solid financial platform from which to fast-track growth.”
The new board of Cooltrader will be headed by Pritchard, supported by Errington, who is buying director, stores director Colin Watt and property director Tim Yates, recently poached from Big Food Group to oversee expansion of the business.
Malcolm Walker will take a back seat as non-executive chairman and Steven Walker, chief executive of the Individual Restaurant Company, will act as a non-executive director.
Gresham will take a “significant minority stake” in Cooltrader and provide a mixture of new equity and loans. The Merseyside Special Investment Fund is also providing finance.