Scottish wholesaler JW Filshill has plans to expand its KeyStore symbol group to 200 stores following the opening of its first forecourt site in north-east England.

The company’s retail sales director, Craig Brown, told betterRetailing that JW Filshill is to resume recruitment and store developments as lockdown restrictions throughout Scotland are eased.

“We’re recruiting for a regional development manager to support existing stores and find more acquisitions throughout central and western Scotland, which is where we have the biggest concentration of stores,” he said.

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“It’s something we’ve had in the pipeline over the past year. We’ve got 187 symbol group stores and 1,600 retail customers altogether, and we’ve had a pipeline of enquiries from retailers.

“Independent retailers communicate within their own networks and many have been made aware of the support we’ve been providing for our existing KeyStore retailers during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Brown added that the symbol group’s development managers have begun working overnight to help develop stores. “Lockdown restrictions are easing, but many shopfitters haven’t been able to get to stores,” he explained.

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“We still have to manage social distancing and we’ve been rebadging stores or installing EPoS when the shops have been closed.”

This year, the company also launched its first KeyStore forecourt based in Penrith, Cumbria. “The impact of the coronavirus means the retailer’s fuel sales are down by 60%, but this decline has been offset by sales in the convenience store doubling,” said Brown.

Lockdown restrictions being imposed to tackle the coronavirus has caused some convenience stores in urban and city locations throughout the UK to close temporarily due to a decline in footfall.

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The majority of KeyStore’s estate is based in rural and residential locations, but the symbol group has been examining the performance of a recently-launched city centre branch.

“We’ve got a KeyStore which has just launched in Edinburgh. It’s right next to Edinburgh Haymarket train station and will have a lot of passing footfall when normality returns.

“We will be looking at what product ranges and layouts work in this store to determine the development in other shops of a similar format,” Brown added.

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“The majority of stores we’ve got aren’t based in high streets. They’re in neighbourhood areas where there’s been demand for convenience stores. Alcohol has been a major category for them.

“Pubs and restaurants are closed and a lot of people in lockdown are drinking at home more to socialise and relax.”

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