United Wholesale Grocers (UWG) has begun a major expansion south of the Scottish border, following its takeover of AF Blakemore’s cash and carry depot in Gateshead.
The takeover, which will be completed on 4 June, was announced at Landmark Wholesale’s annual trade conference in Alicante on 23 May and marks the first time Glasgow-based UWG has entered England. UWG managing director Amaan Ramzan told RN the move will help it expand the number of Lifestyle Express and Shop Local fascias it operates over the next year.
“We’re absolutely using this opportunity to recruit more retailers and expand the Lifestyle Express and Shop Local fascias throughout the UK over the next 12 months.
“We have 270 stores altogether, 230 of which are Lifestyle Express. Since January, we have added 47 shops and I expect the total stores we work with to grow to more than 350 in the next 12 months. Our aim isn’t just expansion into England, but also Wales and Ireland, while extending to Dundee and Edinburgh in Scotland.”
Mr Ramzan declined to reveal the trends UWG sees as opportunities, but confirmed the company wants to remain at a size where it can communicate personally with its retailers.
“Some businesses fear consolidation, but we see it as the right opportunity to expand,” he said. “Some organisations are growing to a scale where they’re losing their ability to interact personally, but we want to keep that. Although pricing and availability are important, there’s a lot more to convenience.”
Mr Ramzan’s comments come as Landmark Wholesale announced the sale of all 12 Blakemore cash and carry depots at the start of April. An employee at Blakemore’s Killingworth site confirmed to RN the depot is shutting on 8 June and said customers are being redirected to Gateshead.
Blakemore was unable to provide comment as RN went to print.