Co-op food stores in Norwich, Watton and Wisbech to become Budgens after sale

The Co-operative shop on Plumstead Road, Norwich.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

The Co-operative shop on Plumstead Road, Norwich.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

Co-op food stores in Watton, Wisbech and Norwich's Plumstead Road are among 36 which will be sold off by the Co-operative Group as it sharpens its focus on convenience shopping.

The stores will be rebranded as Budgens by the end of July, but the group said the move would not lead to closures or redundancies.

In total, 920 staff will move over to the new company under a TUPE transfer agreement.

The former Somerfield stores and the group's non-core property portfolio were bought by the Food Retailer Group, an arm of business restructuring specialists Hilco Capital.

The sale comes after speculation last month that the firm had earmarked 300 stores from a 'non-convenience' estate of 700 shops which it may put on the market.

The Co-op sold off 91 food stores last year, raising £175m, because they no longer dovetailed with its 'focus on convenience shopping'.

Steve Murrells, chief executive of Co-op Food, said: 'It is essential that we have a proactive property programme in place to support our long-term growth strategy and this sale aligns with that approach.'

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The Co-op said it would make a profit on the back of the sale, but would not disclose details of the transaction.

The firm opened 97 new stores last year and is pressing ahead with plans to open 100 new food stores and refit 150 existing shops by the end of 2016.

A spokesman for The Food Retailer Group said: 'The change in ownership will not impact daily business and stores will continue trading as usual. All employees will transfer with the business, and there are no planned redundancies.'

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