A CONVENIENCE store venture backed by a group of industry veterans is poised to take on grocery heavyweights Sainsbury’s and Tesco as it battles for a slice of a £40-billion-plus market.
The opening of a store on the site of a former farm on the outskirts of Musselburgh, in East Lothian, will trigger a push into other locations north of the Border.
It follows a tie-up between former Bellvue cash and carry owner Graham Benson and convenience store stalwarts David Sands and his father Lindsay. They have gone into business with Colin Smith, the former regional manager for Bestway Direct in Scotland.
Smith, managing director of parent company Lothian Stores, will oversee the new Pinkie Farm store, and is investing in the business alongside his three co-directors. He said the venture was already eyeing a number of additional sites.
Britain’s convenience sector was worth almost £36bn last year and is expected to grow to more than £46bn by 2018, according to industry body IGD.
The big supermarket operators have been pushing aggressively into the space in recent years, dominated by Tesco’s Express and Metro offerings and Sainsbury’s Local brand.
David Sands, who sold his 28-strong eponymous convenience store business to the Co-operative Group in 2012, has already unveiled plans to open his own outlet in Glenrothes, Fife. He described the Pinkie venture as an “ambitious project with an exciting, young businessman at the helm”.
Sands said: “I’m confident that Pinkie will make a big impact… and set a benchmark for the future direction of the convenience store sector in Scotland.
“I’m delighted to be part of this business venture with Colin and also Graham Benson, a hugely experienced and driven businessman with great ideas.”
Trading under the Pinkie name and supplied by grocery buying group Nisa, the 6,000 sq ft Musselburgh store is due to open in May. Its backers promise it will “retain the character, heritage and values” of an existing store established in the 1960s as a traditional farm shop by the late father of the current owner, Lynn Todd. She has sold the store and some of the farmland to the Pinkie directors.
Smith said: “All the staff are moving across into the new store and are integral to keeping Pinkie known for its service and community feel.”
He said the format of the new outlet, which is larger than most typical convenience stores, would allow for a wider range of produce and services, including an in-store bakery provided by Fife-based Stephens.