blakemore wholesale

The wholesaler has = confirmed plans to sell its 12 cash & carry depots

AF Blakemore & Son will struggle to find a single buyer for its 12 cash & carry depots and may not be able to find a buyer for all of its sites, The Grocer understands.

The wholesaler this week confirmed plans to sell its cash & carries, eight months after the story first emerged.

It is not likely to find a single buyer for the depots, with hotly-tipped Bestway understood to have pulled out of negotiations and the geographical spread of the operation making it difficult for a smaller operator to take on all of the sites. There are four depots spread across Wales, three in the Midlands, three in the North East and two in Yorkshire.

The likelihood is that regional wholesalers could cherry-pick the best sites. Midlands-based East End Foods confirmed it was interested.

“Any of the properties within the West Midlands area, we’d definitely be looking at. How many depends what’s on offer on the individual lot sizes,” said director Mundev Wouhra. “We could buy more than two or three if we could see the tangible return or benefit from investing in them, but to begin with we just want to look at the particulars of the available sites.”

One senior wholesale source highlighted the Gateshead depot as particularly attractive due to its large size and location close to the city centre. However, he suggested Blakemore could struggle to find buyers for the smaller depots in Grimsby and Barnsley as they were close to more major cities such as Leeds and Sheffield where there are already a large number of cash & carries.

Several potential buyers including Costco and Dhamecha told The Grocer they were not interested in buying sites. Other wholesalers being tipped to take on some of the depots include Kitwave and Parfetts. AFB said all enquiries for interested parties in relation to the acquisition of the sites are being dealt with by property director Mark Titley.

“The move away from the cash & carry sector will allow the company to invest further across its wider business and focus future strategy upon its remaining divisions, as it continues to drive innovation within the retail and wholesale distribution sectors,” said AFB joint managing director Geoff Hallam.

He did not provide any further details of the sale plans but said the company “has now informed colleagues and will support all 520 of those impacted throughout this process. Further information will be provided as the situation progresses over the coming weeks.”

Landmark said its relationship with AFB would remain business as usual for the immediate future and ongoing through the foodservice and wholesale distribution divisions.

“We will be sorry to see AFB’s cash & carry depot division changing hands. However, we are hopeful that some depots may not leave the Landmark family,” said Landmark MD John Mills. “We understand that in this consolidating market, AFB have to do what is right for their business. We will work closely with their management team during this process.”

He added: “With 40 members and a group turnover of c£2.8bn, Landmark’s focus will remain on providing our members with the best support we can in this competitive environment, including our terms package and access to the central office services such as our award-winning own-brand ranges, marketing and promotions programmes, IT support and more.”

It was reported last year that AFB’s cash & carry depots had been offered to Bestway with a price tag of £100m, but The Grocer found out that the UK’s second biggest carry & carry operator was more interested in AFB’s delivered Spar operations than adding to its existing portfolio of cash & carries, and was prepared to acquire the entire operation in order to gain access to the Spar fascia, but had been thwarted in its negotiations.