Speaking at the company’s annual supplier conference, MBL managing director Mike Taylor said: “We want to take Budgens from a regional brand with a strong London bias to a national brand. Our four RDCs will support Londis and Budgens, be multi-temperature, and have national coverage.”
The company is looking to create more of a distinction between the two brands - Londis for smaller stores (up to 2,000sq ft), and Budgens for larger shops (more than 2,000sq ft), but both with a strong fresh produce offer. Independent Cambridgeshire retailer Jonathan James presented at the conference. He runs a former Budgens corporate store, plus three Budgens shops on forecourts, including one of 600sq ft, and said that he would consider the switch to Londis for his smaller store.
“I will certainly think about it - I wouldn’t have contemplated that before now,” he said. Taylor revealed that since MBL sent out its second loyalty payment to Londis retailers in August following the buyout last year, the Londis store portfolio had reduced by 54 stores. Taylor also announced that the Budgens corporate store divestment was continuing “on track”.
About 20 stores have already been converted, and 65% of all the company-owned stores now have a prospective owner against them. The group plans to convert 40 a year until 2008. “This is not a race,” he said. “Neither is it a property deal - we’re selling standards and long-term commitment, so we will wait for the right person.”