He said: "This is a good deal for Nisa. Bibby is 200 years old so is hardly some fly-by-night venture capitalist, and Costcutter could have sold to a competitor rather than to a company we have a long-standing relationship with. There is no hidden agenda or secret plan, and this will not affect any of the contracts that we have with Bibby."
Turton told delegates that Nisa's sales and profits have grown by 6% and 26% respectively in the past year, with the New Era range strategy creating multi-million pound savings by helping to reduce stockholding in the warehouse from 11 days to 9.5 days.
Some 182 stores run by 70 new members have joined the group since April, and Nisa aims to get 150 new members in the financial year to April 2008, and 300 in the calendar year to next September.
Recruitment from MBL has been particularly strong, Turton reported, and the group will aim to recruit Mace retailers in Northern Ireland following wholesaler Haslett's recent acquisition by Musgrave. A concerted recruitment campaign costing £1m begins in earnest later this month. For the first time the group has funds available to make strategic acquisitions, Turton added, with a special committee set up to focus on this issue.
Nisa also announced plans to develop a community scheme whereby stores can raise funds for local causes by selling selected products. Retailers who run the Nisa consumer leaflet programme will be able to nominate a local charity, and participating suppliers will make a donation based on the number of units sold.