AF Blakemore has decided to sell its wholesale division following a strategic review. The division, which comprises 12 cash & carry depots, will be sold as a going concern. 

The wholesale arm supplies 27,600 Spar, Lifestyle Express and other independent retailers across Wales and central and Eastern England.

Experts told Retail Express that it has been widespread knowledge that Blakemore’s wholesale division has been up for sale for some time and said this was due to financial difficulties within the company.

A senior industry figure told Retail Express: “The surprise isn’t that Blakemore Wholesale is up for sale, it’s that they haven’t announce Bestway as the buyer. It suggests that Bestway have got cold feet about the deal in light of the big industry news this week.”

Blakemore has previously denied that its wholesale division was up for sale. Eight months ago, the company said its wholesale arm was part of its plans for the next 100 years.

However, a source within Blakemore told Retail Express at the time that the wholesale arm was not in a “strong” position and operations director Paul Rabone said that performance was “pretty poor.” In 2017 it closed one depot and sold off another.

Responding to the news, Spar retailer Raj Aggarwal felt that store owners are unlikely to be affected. He said: “Our point of contact is Blakemore’ trade partners division so there’s not much direct contact with Blakemore Wholesale.”

Julian Taylor-Green from Taylor-Green’s Spar in Linford, Hampshire said: “I think Blakemore have looked at the challenges the industry is facing, looked at their opwn business and made a decision that protects their business and their retail partners and makes them ready for the future.”

Geoff Hallam, joint managing director at AF Blakemore, said: “The move away from the cash & carry sector will allow the company to invest further across its wider business and focus its future strategy upon its remaining divisions, as it continues to drive innovation within the retail and wholesale distribution sectors."

He added that the company has informed all colleagues and pledged to support all 520 of those impacted throughout this process. "Further information will be provided as the situation progresses over the coming weeks.”

In February, retailers said they were considering moving to other wholesalers following frustrations over a lack of investment and continuing availability from the company.

AF Blakemore will continue to trade with buying group Landmark Wholesale for the immediate future and its relationship will be ongoing for its foodservice and wholesale distribution divisions.

“We will be sorry to see AF Blakemore's cash & carry depot division changing hands, however, we are hopeful that some depots may not leave the Landmark family,” said managing director John Mills. “We understand that in this consolidating market, AF Blakemore have to do what is right for their business. We will work closely with their management team during this process.”

Earlier this year, retailers shared their concerns with betterRetailing when Blakemore announced it would give the public access to two of its depots.