Co-op ramping up new store openings

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THE Co-op has opened its 110th new convenience store in 12 months amid signs it is holding its own in the ultra-competitive grocery market.

Market data from Kantar Worldpanel this week showed the Manchester company’s sales up 1.5% in the  12 weeks to November 8. This helped it increase its market share by 0.1 percentage points to 6.3%, which was its first year-on-year share gain since 2011, when the benefits of the Somerfield acquisition were still being felt.

The latest new shop, in Shepherds Bush, London is part of a store development program that will see a further 120 stores opened in 2016.

David Roberts, director of estates services, said: “The Co-operative Food has a clear and exciting vision which is to establish itself as the number one convenience store operator, providing a strong customer offer in communities across the UK.  As part of this strategy our acquisitions and refit programme is fundamental to its success.

“In the last 12 months we have carried out over 110 new store launches and over 250 store refits, investing millions in the estate. It’s comfortably the biggest store opening programme the business has undertaken.  We have a particular focus on London and the South East, which is an area that presents numerous exciting opportunities for expansion – and our plans address this.

“Whilst other retailers are scaling back their expansion plans or exiting the convenience sector, the Co-op continues to open new stores.”

Rob Bignold, head of acquisitions and new store development at the Co-op, added: “These are exciting times for our acquisitions team as we continue with our ambitious plans to expand our store estate. As a community retailer we are uniquely placed to engage with local people throughout the planning process.

“With an even bigger target for store openings in 2016, we are actively seeking freehold or leasehold sites, including existing businesses, right across the UK. We are flexible in our requirements and offer quick decisions to agents, developers and owners.“

The Co-op says it is responding to consumer changes which is seeing more people shopping little and often, conveniently, rather than doing a weekly ‘big shop’.

The convenience market is currently worth £37.7bn and is projected to grow by 17% to be worth £44.1bn in 2020, increasing its share of the total market from 21.2% in 2015 to 22% in 2020.