The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) is to vote on whether to change its constitution to let multiple grocers become members.

The proposal has been agreed by the association’s board and will be put to the vote at an EGM on 4 December. The new constitution under consideration will include ‘baked in’ positions on maintaining the current Sunday trading regime and town centre first planning, which any new members would have to accept without qualification.

While a number of multi-store chains such as McColl’s Retail Group and the co-operative societies are already members, a clause in the constitution prohibits operators whose primary activity is not convenience retail, which means that Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are currently not allowed to join.

C-Store understands that, while there are no applications for membership from multiple grocers pending, ACS officials believe that the changing retail landscape, and particularly the growth in One Stop franchise operation, has blurred the lines between multiple and independent operators to the point where it needs updating in order to continue making a coherent, research-based case to government.

ACS chairman Jonathan James said: “As the market changes, we have found that our current constitution excludes many potential members, including franchises run by major multiples with independent retailers. The ACS board unanimously agreed that these changes are necessary to ensure ACS is a broad-based, inclusive and effective organisation moving forward.

“ACS has always included multiple retailers in membership while being an effective voice for independent local shops, and we will continue to play this role. Part of the changes proposed will be for safeguards to ensure that no group of companies can dominate ACS or deflect its policy focus away from independents.”

Who holds sway at ACS?

Voting papers on the proposed constitution will be distributed next month, prior to the EGM on 4 December.

ACS officials will hold a series of consultations with members in coming weeks. In order to pass, the new proposals need to gain the support of the independents board, who account for half of the votes for constitutional changes.

What won’t change is the make-up of the main ACS board, which comprises one-third multiple operators, one-third independents and one-third affinity groups, such as symbol group wholesalers.


”My worry would be that the ACS has the USP that it is speaking for the neighbourhood retailer, and if we align with the multiples we could lose that. But I can also see that the government might take us even more seriously.”

Dean Holborn, Holborn’s, Surrey

“I certainly have reservations about sitting down with the multiples, but at the same time if ACS is to speak for the sector it needs to speak for everyone involved in it.”

Paul Stone, Spar, Manchester