Charles Wilson has pinpointed three key priorities in his bid to revitalise the Londis and Budgens chains.
Booker chief executive Wilson said the food wholesaler and retailer, which acquired the convenience specialists from Musgrave in a £40m deal last month, will focus on improving the quality of the fresh offer in stores, strengthening the private label propositions and creating a more efficient supply chain.
He revealed his to-do list for the fascias as Booker reported a 10% rise in half-year pre-tax profits to £74.1m.
Speaking to Retail Week, Wilson reaffirmed that both the Londis’ and Budgens’ fascias would remain because they “serve different consumers” and thrive in different regions of the UK.
Booker took control of the 1,630 Londis convenience stores last month, which have a strong presence in London and the Southeast. Budgens has 167 stores, mainly in the southern counties. It already owns 3,203 stores under the Premier Stores symbol group, which thrive in the Midlands and the North.
Wilson said the group was putting a lot of energy into improving the core business of Londis and Budgens. He added: “We believe there is a real opportunity to help retailers refine their formats to fit the target consumer they have got.”
But he has already been encouraged by the way the stores have been trading: “One month in, I’m really pleased. We’ve spoken to an awful lot of customers and on the whole they are happy to see them within the Booker Group.
We are showing them what we are doing to improve their private label and improve their volume and scale
“We are starting to show the retailers some of the benefits of being part of the group. We are showing them what we are doing to improve their private label and improve their volume and scale. Those benefits will start to feed through as we go into November.
Growing the business
“In terms of trade, we can’t complain, they can’t complain, so we are looking forward to growing the businesses in the next few years.”
Wilson said he had not targeted a set number of stores for Booker’s four c-store fascias, which also includes Family Shopper, but added he was confident of making further headway into the competitive convenience sector.
“We’ve got pretty much the strongest balance sheet within the wholesale sector.”
He said the company’s focus on broadening the business had worked well to date and he expected that to continue.
“The strength we’ve got is the strength of our retailers. There are some great retailers in Budgens and some great retailers in Londis.
“Alongside the Premier Stores we’ve got and the Family Shoppers, with the support of Londis and Budgens, we can grow all of those businesses. That’s what we are keen and excited to do.”