Costcutter expansion to be driven by own stores

Symbol group Costcutter plans to open more company-owned stores in an effort to strengthen its position in the fiercely competitive convenience store sector.

Costcutter has appointed Ian Hamer to the new role of retail operations director, with a remit of looking after company-owned shops and searching for potential acquisitions. Hamer was previously operations manager at United Co-op.

He said: 'We want to increase our company owned-estate and are looking for quality locations of 3,000 sq ft (280 sq m) or less.'

Costcutter only has 35 company-owned stores, but wants to drive profits by expanding aggressively. Hamer would not specify how many company-owned shops Costcutter wants, but analysts believe that growing to 100 over the next couple of years would be realistic.

Most of Costcutter's portfolio is made up of 1,100 independent stores, to which it provides buying, distribution and operational support.

However, M+M Planet Retail analyst Bryan Roberts said that Costcutter has slipped behind some of its c-store and symbol group rivals and needs to fight back.

He said: 'Spar and Londis have been storming ahead, while Costcutter has been quite quiet in terms of expansion. A lot of the Costcutter stores also look a bit jaded.

All the symbol groups might find it tough, with Tesco and Sainsbury's jaunting back to the high street. Costcutter needs to drive forward with store refits and increase store numbers as well as forging a stronger identity.'

Costcutter's turnover rose to£383.3 million for the year to April 30, compared with£360 million last year. Pre-tax profit increased to£3.7 million from£3.1 million.