Organic online grocer Abel & Cole plans to open its first stores this year, following Phoenix Equity Partners taking a stake in the business late last year.

Abel & Cole managing director Duncan Gibson said: “In 2008, we want to open a shop or two. 90 per cent of organic food is sold through bricks-and-mortar shops and clearly we have to.”

He added that Abel & Cole had not yet secured sites or decided on a name, but that shops were just one of the areas Phoenix’s investment would be used for.

However, he said that the retailer’s ethical stance meant it would choose stores carefully for instance, choosing those close to train stations, in an effort to minimise the environmental impact of road miles.

Alongside stores, Gibson said Abel & Cole wants to ramp up the number of areas it serves in the UK. “We want to be known as the UK’s best organic retailer and, to do this, we need to broaden our offer,” he said.

Founded in 1988, Abel & Cole has six distribution centres, most of which are located on farms. It will open another in Wakefield next week, which will serve the surrounding area including York.

Gibson said Abel & Cole has ambitions to deliver outside the South, Midlands and Northwest, to Wales, Scotland and other areas of England.

About 50,000 customers a week use Abel & Cole’s online delivery service – more than 50 per cent up on last year. Total sales for the three weeks to Christmas were up on last year by more than 60 per cent.

Founder Keith Abel sold a stake in his company to Phoenix in October, in a deal that valued the company at between£30 million and£40 million.