The news that Booker has purchased Budgens and Londis certainly seems to have taken everyone by surprise.
Of course, the fact that Musgrave has exited is no real surprise. Many of us have talked about consolidation and I think it’s now widely accepted that in order to achieve a long-term future, the successful symbols will be ones built on scale, something Musgrave was lacking.
Personally, I am cautiously optimistic about the move. We will soon be part of a big business in the convenience sector, the scale of which should drive more profitable sales. At the same time there appears to be a genuine desire for us to be entrepreneurial in our trading locations, reducing some of the compliance network we were working under.
For the Budgens brand I am even more optimistic. I think that the brand has always stood ahead in terms of range and aesthetic. A simplified, more profitable, model that has less barriers to entry could result in an influx in store numbers and not just from Londis, but from other symbols, too.
As ever the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but there are many Budgens retailers that want to continue on after their 10-year agreement ends and, for the first time in a long time, there is credible reason to do so.
Having just returned from an open retailer meeting with Charles Wilson it seems clear that Booker has big plans, not only for its new customers but for its existing ones, too. It clearly has a strong vision and a strong will to achieve it and
I can see this deal being a catalyst for further changes in the sector.
But for today I’ll settle for cautious optimism!