Our fourth annual list of the Top 50 independent chains, published today, shows that the sector remains resilient, despite the loss of 13 convenience and neighbourhood retailers from last year’s ranking.
Ten chains were gobbled up by the major multiples and co-ops in a £250m spending spree; two sold stores to rivals; and one chain was bought by another Top 50 retailer.
But new arrivals together with strong performances by existing members means the overall turnover of the Top 50 was down just 2.8% year-on-year.
Newcomers are greengrocer Stokes, off-licence group Winemark, c-store chain RNS Holdings and Stan’s Superstore. Meanwhile Farmfoods, the frozen food discount chain that tops our ranking, saw its turnover rise 20%. Booths, the northern supermarket chain, saw its sales rise 13%.
Two other retailers that have performed particularly strongly are c-store and forecourt retailer Alfred Jones and CTN operator Rippleglen. They both saw turnover up more than 50% after bedding in acquisitions.
There were also further signs of the ambitious plans of our Top 50 retailers this week, as it emerged that Smile Stores had bought 25 Spar outlets from Nugent Westward (see p10), the first major acquisition by a Top 50 retailer since CJ Lang bought AJ Gillespie last April.
Botterills Convenience Stores was also celebrating as it staved off competition from a Sainsbury’s Local just 300 yards from one of its Spar stores located near Glasgow.
Sainsbury will close its Clarkston site on March 3 after trading for less than 18 months.
The supermarket giant said it was shutting up shop because of “unfavourable trading conditions due to the proximity to other stores”.
Botterills chairman Jim Botterill said that while the Sainsbury store had struggled, his customers had stayed loyal.
He said: “It is about having the offer right. Our standards are as good, if not better than Sainsbury’s. We have car parking and the right range of products. We have been there 15 years - we know the customers and have good staff.”
Botterill said that he now believed the consolidation trend in the convenience store sector could even begin to reverse, with independents acquiring stores back from the multiples as they discovered some locations did not perform as well as expected.
“In the next year or two, we will see some of the stores acquired by major players being offloaded because they are not as profitable or doing as much business as they would like,” claimed Botterill.
“These stores could come back into the independent sector, opening up opportunities for companies in the Top 50.”