The impact of the coronavirus has not hindered the investment plans of the franchisees of major symbol groups.

Since the UK and Ireland went into lockdown to decrease the spread of Covid-19, some retailers have seen the footfall in their stores decrease.

Thomas Ennis, who runs 11 Spar convenience stores, supermarkets and forecourts in Ireland, told betterRetailing: “Food to go is our core business and makes up 70% of sales in some shops.

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“Some of the shops took a hit when the coronavirus happened. In our convenience stores, we’re nothing near to what we had been doing before, and there’s less demand at the forecourts because fewer people are driving, but we’re seeing enough demand at our sites to warrant staying open,” he added.

“The coronavirus has had no impact on my expansion plans at all. It might delay things by a month or two, but it won’t dent ambitions and we’re still looking to expand and open new stores. We still want to try new food-to-go products. We opened stores in the last recession, and what is happening now will come and go.”

According to Steve Rodell, retail managing director at commercial property adviser Christie & Co, there has been an increase in enquiries about the purchase of company-owned convenience chains. “We have corporate disposal plans for various chains and a few of them are now asking to hold off for six months to collect as much income as they can before selling.

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“Sales within convenience retailing are up because people are realising they can get the same products and deals as the supermarkets. More people are going to convenience stores because there is a need to.

“We’ve seen an increase in people requesting viewings and they see it as a robust sector going forward. The same can apply to petrol stations with a convenience store attached to them.”

Paul Patel, of WHSmith Local Dibden Purlieu News in Southampton, added: “Once we return to some semblance of normality, there will be opportunities for acquisitions. Some retailers won’t be able to continue running their businesses after the pandemic. I’ve been keeping an eye on any potential stores to help us expand.”

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Similarly, Nisa retailer Siva Thievanayagan has finished the refurbishment of his seventh Nisa store and plans to open an eighth site in August. “The builders were able to continue work once lockdown restrictions had eased,” he said.

“The coronavirus has affected how I approach food to go and the considerations I take with social distancing, but I’m still going to make this a major category in my new store.”

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