Warners Budgens Moreton-in-Marsh

Owners of Budgens and Londis stores have welcomed the Booker takeover, hoping for better prices, margins, quality and service levels.

Booker created a convenience retail powerhouse when it swooped on Budgens and Londis in a £40m deal last month. The deal creates a symbol group with 4,907 stores, adding 1,630 Londis and 167 Budgens to its Premier stores.

Guy Warner, owner of Warner’s Budgens, which has five stores in the Cotswolds, said: “I’m genuinely excited by the Booker acquisition as their commitment to grow the Budgens brand, combined with their buying scale and financial strength, will provide both certainty and a stronger commercial proposition to independent retailers,” he said.

Brian Ellinson, owner of Budgens in Woodford, Stockport, said throughputs, sell-by dates and quality needed to be tackled. “I was at the meeting with Charles Wilson which was very good and I liked what he was saying,” he said.

“Price is an issue but I don’t think this will be for too long. I think we have reasonable prices with Budgens but the margins could be better.”

Paul Trevor, owner of Budgens of Box in Wiltshire, added: “We could do with more stores and becoming a bigger brand as we are still quite small. We have been given the impression with Booker’s buying power that prices should improve, but margins could do with improving, too. Musgrave just didn’t have the buying power to compete.”

He said Booker would keep the fresh offer at Budgens and look at rolling that out across its other businesses.

Londis owners were similarly positive but called for better communication and standards.

Arjan Mehr, who owns a Londis in Bracknell and is on its National Retailer Council, believes the deal is the “best thing” to have happened to the group. “The multiples are encroaching on us and we need economies of scale and I think Booker will bring a lot to the table. Londis has been through a rough patch and did have some challenges in terms of where the company was going.” he said, adding the major concern for retailers was ensuring the Londis brand continued to develop, but said Charles Wilson had given them assurances that he wants to see both Londis and Budgens grow.

“The important thing is that we need standards and I hope Booker pushes towards this. We need to benchmark ourselves against the multiples in terms of service levels and need a totally new approach as and that is the only way we can compete s. We need to look ahead as being a corner shop is just not good enough.”

John Howarth, owner of Booth & Howarth Londis in Manchester, has been a franchisee for 15-years and said “I would like to see better prices coming through the system and a proper support chain. Communication is poor at the moment. At the end of the day, we are their livelihood and we are the people selling their goods and they need to communicate with us.”