AF Blakemore & Son is poised to become a fully fledged national delivered wholesaler after buying a new 83,000 sq ft depot for deliveries to national customers.

Blakemore is to spend £700,000 renovating the former metal storage depot near Walsall and aims to have it up and running in September.

The depot forms part of Blakemore's ambitious plans to make its wholesale arm a major player on the national stage.

It wants to increase the delivered sales from nearly £40m to £100m in the next five years.

John Liptrot, formerly the MD of the now defunct Key Lekkerland buying group, was appointed to the newly created position of Blakemore Wholesale's sales director in November to help grow the delivered side of the business.

Blakemore Wholesale a Landmark member that operates separately from the other divisions of Blakemore, such as its Spar wholesaling and foodservice businesses turns over about £220m a year. It currently delivers to local businesses from its nine C&Cs throughout the Midlands, Wales and the northeast of England. But the delivered side of the business accounts for less than a fifth of its total turnover.

The wholesale division was behind many of its competitors, some of which delivered half of their sales, admitted group managing director Peter Blakemore.

"The new depot will enable us to have a complete focus on delivery for the first time," said Blakemore. "We had gone as far as we could operating deliveries from cash & carries and we were running short of capacity for growth. We decided it was time for a delivered facility for deliveries only. It will give us space to enable us to fully deliver our national distribution strategy. We have a lot of potential new accounts."

To begin with, 12 trucks will operate from the new depot and staff are being moved across from other depots to work there.

Deliveries to local companies will still run out of individual cash & carries.