SUPERMARKET chain Morrisons is understood to be in talks over acquiring a significant number of Costcutter stores in a move which would rapidly increase its presence in the convenience store sector.
The Yorkshire-based chain is in discussion with financial services and shipping company Bibby Line Group, owner of Costcutter, which has more than 100 stores in Scotland.
The UK’s fourth-largest supermarket is battling to compete with rivals Tesco and Sainsbury’s which have enjoyed significant success by moving into smaller convenience stores in high streets and suburbs.
Morrisons already has a smaller story format – M Local – which was launched last June and has ambitious plans to expand the number of sites to 70 by the start of 2014.
It is thought the company has been running the rule over Costcutter for several months although it yesterday said it couldn’t comment on speculation.
Costcutter was founded in 1986 and has about 1,700 convenience stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland that are primarily run by franchisees.
It directly employs more than 600 people, has its head office in York and an office in Belfast.
Meanwhile, Asda yesterday became the latest supermarket group to unveil plans to move into banking with the rebranding of its personal finance arm. The creation of Asda Money comes as Marks & Spencer looks to open 50 bank branches over the next two years and Tesco moves towards offering mortgages.
Asda has offered personal finance products for a decade but is now providing a cashback credit card as part of the brand launch.
It will target the 18 million people who shop at Asda’s 542 stores every week by promoting the brand at check-outs and through a new website.
Kirsty Ward, head of Asda Money, said the credit card will appeal to shoppers frustrated with “gimmicky” points-based reward cards offered by other retailers. Asda recently launched an energy tariff comparison service.
Rivals Tesco and Sainsbury’s stepped into the personal finance sector more than a decade ago and have targeted more of the market as confidence in mainstream banks slips in the wake of the financial crisis.
Marks & Spencer is to offer current accounts from this autumn as part of a joint venture with HSBC. Shares in Morrisons closed down 2.9p at 266.8p yesterday.
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