Hodnetts stores

An independent retailer has revealed major expansion plans to launch a new chain designed to “reinvent convenience”.

Justin Hodnett, founder of Hodnetts stores, told betterRetailing the first store will be opened in Preston by the end of 2023, with further openings targeted in Lancashire, Cumbria, Merseyside, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Scotland and London. With 25 years of retail experience, Hodnett has notably worked with Sainsbury’s and the Co-op in the past.

The stores will be supplied by Booker, Hancocks and Batleys. Explaining the expansion, Hodnett said: “I’m looking at initial funding of £250,000 to £300,000 to kick this off properly. It’s not going to be a newsagent. It will be a proper convenience chain with an average floor space of 2,800sq ft for the first store in Preston by the end of next year.

“We’ll give it a year to iron out any mistakes to make sure we don’t repeat those with further stores, alongside the potential opening of a central warehouse in Preston. We can’t rush into this. I want to operate across various parts of the UK and we have big plans.”

Hodnett added he is in talks with Amazon to introduce its ‘Just Walk Out’ technology into stores based in major cities. Already being used by the online giant in its Fresh stores and by Sainsbury’s, the technology allows customers to walk into a store, add items to a basket and walk out without paying at a till. This is possible through sensors and cameras located around the shop, with the transaction taken from the customer’s online account later in the day.

Hodnetts stores would be the first independent convenience chain to use the technology if introduced.

“We just want to do things differently,” Hodnett said. “You’ll know it’s a Hodnetts store when you come in. I don’t want it to be a standard convenience store like a Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Londis or Nisa. They’re pretty much the same. You walk into an Amazon Fresh store and they blow everything out of the water in terms of store design and product offering.

“That’s exactly where I want Hodnetts to be, as well as offering the usual great customer service, home delivery, extended opening hours and more.”

Hodnett has also enlisted a director from a major symbol group to help guide the development of the chain. He said: “One of the directors has come onboard as a retail consultant and I have somebody with the experience with store design and layout.

“I can throw ideas around and get their feedback on what’s good and what’s bad. People like this are invaluable.”

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