Booker is targeting growth for its Budgens brand by expanding distribution and making the fascia more accessible for smaller stores.

The group will service Budgens stores with national distribution from 2018 by using regional depots across the Booker network to access new areas in the north west and north east of England and in Scotland.

“Since January 2016 we have opened Budgens stores in 12 new counties including Lancashire, Dyfed, Shropshire and Tyne & Wear, but we’ve got capacity within the network to grow,” Mike Baker, Budgens brand director, told RN. “We have always known the Budgens concept had wider appeal beyond its historic southern UK heartland.”

Mr Baker said work over the past two years to increase Budgens’ fresh food and meals for tonight ranges, simplify contracts and access Booker’s product range will help the group recruit more smaller stores, sized from 1,000sq ft.

“Budgens isn’t just about the 3,000sq ft model. It’s for everyone who has the right chilled space and standards,” he said. “We’ve worked with several Shell stores which do well on tobacco, confectionery and snacks but didn’t have meal for tonight ranges or the right chilled offer.

“There are a lot of stores like this where Budgens would work and where there is consumer demand for meal for tonight offers.”

Budgens retailer Jonathan Fraser said improvements to the group’s fresh and chilled range had helped boost sales in his store.

“We’ve got more products now, such as Discover the Choice, with a better range of ready meals and pizzas and a two for £5 offer across them. It’s made a huge difference,” he said.

Mr Baker said an average three new Budgens stores are being opened per week, and the group is aiming to open a further 24 forecourt stores with Shell this year.