A massive investment programme focusing on improving Martin McColl's chilled offer and promotions has increased profitability by 15%, delegates at the group's conference in St Moritz heard last month.

The CTN and c-store group last year replaced 2,000 soft drinks chillers with open-fronted versions and removed some non-food lines such as music and books. It now plans to increase its chilled food and drink space by a third in most stores, focusing on fruit and vegetables, sandwiches and ready meals.

The £40m programme in 2006 also included rebranding all 1,300 stores and refitting 117 shops, while it sold 76 stores and bought 42 better performing ones. 

A scheme to ensure managers display promotions helped improve availability. It now plans to improve on its 91% compliancy rating and will this year add planogram compliance checks. 

Trading director Tony Start told delegates: "We set ourselves very ambitious targets for 2006 and delivered every one of them. Our 2007 targets are no less ambitious."

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