Convenience store operator A.F. Blakemore is to sell its wholesale division consisting of 12 cash and carry depots following a strategic review, the company has announced.

In a statement, which was issued as RN went to press, AFB joint managing director Geoff Hallam said the move away from the cash and carry sector would “allow the company to invest further across its wider business”.

He added that 520 staff impacted would be “supported” through the process.

The wholesaler – and Landmark buying group member – supplies 290 Spar stores across Wales, the Midlands and the north east, as well as 970 Lifestyle Express stores, and says the division will be sold as a going concern. 

Sources have told RN Bestway is in pole position to clinch a deal. However, Bestway did not respond to RN’s request for confirmation.   

John Mills, Landmark’s managing director said: “We understand that in this consolidating market, AFB has to do what is right for its business. We will work closely with its management team during this process.”

Spar retailer Joe Williams, who runs The Village Shop in Hook Norton, said the news reflected turbulence within the industry. “You’ve had Palmer & Harvey; mergers of Tesco Booker and Co-op Nisa, alongside issues with Kerryfresh and Conviviality.”

However, he believed the sale may be good news. “I welcome it, if it means Blakemore investing more into other areas of their business. It has already been investing into IT to help support retailers and it’d be good to see this continue.”

Ian Lewis, of Spar Minster Lovell in Oxon, said he was shocked. “It’s a volatile industry and it’s been a shock. I just hope they know what they are doing – I didn’t expect this to happen.”

Anish Panchmatia, who runs Spar Wylde Green, near Sutton Coldfield, said: “It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Landmark’s buying power and whether or not this affects prices.”

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