EXCLUSIVE: DeeBee Wholesale reveals franchise retail plan for new year

Spar operator AF Blakemore has also entered the convenience franchise sector by launching its ‘commission operator’ model in October

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DeeBee Wholesale is to trial franchise retailing amid the expansion of the fresh and grocery categories for its convenience stores.

The company’s managing director, Nick Ramsden, told Better Retailing the trials would be one of a few areas the company is exploring in the new year.

“It’s still early days, but we want to add three-to-five new stores a year and we’re looking at different ways to help us do this. Franchise is an area we’ve been discussing, alongside some potential new store formats,” he said.

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“We’re examining ways we can get good retailers into one of our stores without giving them too many additional costs.”

DeeBee isn’t the only wholesaler that has been considering entering franchise convenience this year.

Spar operator AF Blakemore, which is a member of wholesale buying group Unitas alongside DeeBee, launched its ‘commission operator’ model in October.

Blakemore owns the store, while the retailer is responsible for developing the sales and overall management of the site.

DeeBee currently manages 100 stores under the Today’s symbol group. Last month it opened its fifth centrally owned store in Howden, East Yorkshire, giving it another testbed for new products for an eventual rollout into its independent estate.

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Ramsden said chilled and grocery is an area which will see further investment. “Chilled is an area we’ve never really been able to compete with Booker in until earlier this year when we added a range to our cash and carry in Hull.

“That’s been performing well and we’re going to invest in expanding it to walk-in chillers at Hull as well as our Grimsby depot,” he said.

“The company-owned store will give us an opportunity to try new products as well, and our four other sites have traded up. We want to expand on the grocery category because we’ve seen a lot
of growth in this area during lockdown.

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“Our customers are shopping more locally, and our shops are seeing baskets which would have traditionally been reserved for a supermarket. Alcohol is another area we want to develop and expand.”

Own label will also be another major focus area for the wholesaler, Ramsden added. “We’ve got the Lifestyle own label from Unitas and we have a supply relationship with Nisa, giving our stores access to Co-op, and we want to expand on this.

“Supermarket chains such as Morrisons and Sainsbury’s are trying to move into the independent sector because they’ve seen growth in the market.”

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