In a bid to find out, we interviewed retailers and other c-store industry figures to ask who they think will have the most influence on where the c-store market is heading in 2006 and beyond. From these interviews a top 10 was formed and ranked in order of votes.
While many of the familiar big names are present, others draw into focus more recent developments that may well have an impact on the way the convenience store industry shapes up during the next 12 months.
1. Sir Terry Leahy
Current position: Tesco chief executive.
Responsible for: 600 Express outlets, over 512 One Stops.
Career history: Leahy joined Tesco after graduating from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in 1979.
He initially joined Tesco as marketing executive and was appointed to the company’s board of directors in 1992. In the year that the company overtook Sainsbury’s as the UK’s largest supermarket group, he took up his current position as chief executive. Since then Sir Terry has overseen the company’s gradual move into the c-store market, including the link-up in 1998 with Esso and the launch of the Tesco Express convenience format.
In 2003 the move into c-store retailing accelerated with the acquisition of T&S Stores, which controlled 862 One Stop outlets. The deal was followed a year later by the purchase of Adminstore, which ran 45 c-stores in London.
To top it off, Sir Terry was knighted for services to food retailing and received the Freedom of the City of Liverpool in 2002.
2005 and beyond: In many respects 2005 was the year of the backlash for the supermarket giant and it came under increasing fire for heavy-handed operating practices from trade associations, retailers and even the Women’s Institute, worried about the survival of local services.
Despite the criticisms, the chain went from strength to strength and unveiled annual profits of more than £2bn midway through the year.
The giant opened its 600th Express store in October 2005, while the company’s convenience director Colin Holmes also announced plans to expand the One Stop chain. One analyst even predicts 2006 might see Tesco overtake Spar as the UK’s biggest c-store chain by sales.
Whether Leahy will remain in charge to oversee that milestone is another story, as rumour continues to circulate that he may step down. But whoever sits on the most powerful throne in UK grocery will find that they hold a very strong hand within the local shopping scene.
What he says: “Customers are still exercising their choice of where they shop. We’ve only grown profits by growing our sales and that’s done by making our stores more attractive for customers.”
2. Mike Taylor
Current position: Musgrave Budgens Londis (MBL) managing director, Musgrave Group executive director.
Responsible for: Supplying 2,050 Londis stores; 204 Budgens outlets.
Career history: Taylor started his career with the Burton Group in 1984, after graduating in economics from the University of East Anglia.
From 1990 he held a number of senior buying and merchandising positions in Bhs and the Sears Group, prior to participating in the management buy-in of Warners Sports in 1997.
He joined Budgens in 2000 and subsequently became store development director and, from January 2004, commercial director.
Following the successful acquisition of Londis by the Musgrave Group in July 2004, Taylor was heavily involved in managing the integration of the Londis and Budgens businesses.
He was appointed managing director of Musgrave Budgens Londis on January 1, 2005 and at the same time was appointed to the Musgrave Group board.
2005 and beyond: Last year saw MBL set out its plans for the future. By keeping a low profile and getting on with the task of retaining the majority of its members, the group looks to have reached a strong position to push on through in 2006 and concentrate on key categories such as chilled and fresh foods, and bringing its entire estate of stores up to a more professional level.
What he says: “The deluge of leavers failed to materialise and now Londis retailers are investing in their stores at record levels. MBL anticipates the pace of improvement for the group’s retailers will accelerate further over the coming year in an increasingly competitive convenience store market.”
3. John Fingleton
Current position: Office of Fair Trading (OFT) chief executive
Responsible for: Ensuring the ongoing competitiveness of the grocery market
Career history: Fingleton studied economics at Trinity College, Dublin, and Nuffield College, Oxford. He taught economics at Trinity College from 1991 to 2000, and held visiting positions at the University Libre de Bruxelles (1995) and the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago (1998-2000).
From May 2000 Fingleton was chairperson of the Irish Competition Authority before becoming OFT chief executive for a five-year term, starting in October 2005.
2005 and beyond: For many, the future landscape of the entire c-store sector lays in Fingleton’s hands. The review his office is undertaking after its initial decision not to refer the grocery market to the Competition Commission will be the key talking point of 2006. For those who can’t wait until this review is complete, a decision is due on the future of the newspaper and magazine supply chain this month.
What he says: “We would never want to refer something to the Competition Commission if there was not a problem. The benchmark is whether the market is acting in the interests of consumers.”
4. Jim McCarthy
Current position: Sainsbury’s managing director of convenience.
Responsible for: 56 Bells stores; 117 Jacksons stores, five Beaumont stores; and 80 Sainsbury Local stores.
Career history: Throughout the 1990s, McCarthy built up the T&S Stores chain from a regional business into a major player in the UK grocery market. As chief executive, he was the driving force behind the group’s decision to buy the One Stop chain of stores in 1999 and its eventual acquisition by Tesco in October 2003. McCarthy soon moved to Sainsbury’s in a consultancy before taking up his current position. In June he was also appointed to the company’s operating board. Since McCarthy’s move to the supermarket chain, he has overseen the acquisition of large c-store chains, Bells and Jacksons and, recently, smaller businesses Beaumonts and Shaws.
2005 and beyond: Compared with previous years, 2005 was a quiet one for the supermarket chain, as it looked to consolidate its position in the c-store sector. However, the acquisition of small but high-quality family chains such as Beaumonts showed that the multiple still has its eye on not just improving its market share but also increasing the quality of its convenience offer. More small but strategic acquisitions can be expected this year.
What he says: “For independent retailers there are much more serious threats than a company like Sainsbury’s; for example, increases in the minimum wage and the cost of licence fees.”
5. Dudley Ramsden
Current position: Nisa-Today’s founder and executive chairman.
Responsible for: 630 Nisa retail members operating more than 5,000 stores and including both the Costcutter and Select & Save estates, plus 330 Today’s group wholesale members who deliver to over 650 Day-Today stores.
Career history: After several years in the wholesale sector, Ramsden joined forces with Peter Garvin in 1977 to set up the fledgling retail buying group Nisa. By 1987, having signed up many of the UK’s independent grocery retailers, the company established a wholesale arm - Today’s - and became Nisa-Today’s. Since that time the company has developed central distribution facilities for ambient products and chilled, and late in 2005 year opened its new 625,000sq ft ambient warehouse in Scunthorpe.
Over the past 12 years Ramsden has overseen the introduction of a number of store concepts and fascias.
2005 and beyond: It was another busy year for the self-titled “entrepreneur of all entrepreneurs”. Last year Ramsden steered and re-geared the Nisa-Today’s offer and as such had to face, many pundits believe, his toughest ever year which culminated at the end of 2005 in severe operational problems with the 625,000sq ft state-of-the-art Scunthorpe warehouse. 2006 is expected to be the year that all the changes finally bed in and start to deliver the promised benefits to Nisa-Today’s members.
What he says: “In an increasingly competitive convenience sector, we are more determined than ever to recruit more new members into the group so that they can reap the benefits of belonging to a committed, forward-thinking mutual company and achieve trading success in 2006.”
6. Jerry Marwood
Current position: Spar managing director.
Responsible for: 2,700-plus c-stores.
Career history: Marwood has been in retailing all his working life, and started as a trainee manager at Gateway.
In 1996 he became Spar retail director, moving to deputy managing director after 18 months.
During 1999 Marwood moved from Spar to take up the role of managing director at Newshops Ltd, where he initiated a programme that saw the segmenting of stores, the conversion of many CTNs to c-stores, and the rebranding of stores under the Smile fascia.
Marwood also takes an active part in the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and is a director of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
2005 and beyond: Last year was a quiet year for the symbol group compared with the activities of many other groups. It concentrated on raising standards as it concentrated on raising standards rather than going all out for recruitment. While analysts predict Tesco will overtake Spar’s convenience market share, 2006 is expected to be the year that Spar spreads a unified message to both consumers and retailers about its quality food to go, fresh and ready meal offers.
What he says: “The biggest challenge facing all convenience retailers will continue to be delivering the standards expected by customers on quality, availability and range in an in-store environment that is totally service-focused.”
7. Charles Wilson
Current position: Booker chief executive.
Responsible for: 172 Booker branches, 1,900-plus Premier retailers
Career history: Wilson started his career in 1986 as a management trainee with Procter & Gamble. From 1987 to 1991 he was a consultant with OC&C strategy consultants and in 1991 formed Abberton Associates. After this he moved to Argos, then to Booker as executive director where he took charge of branches, supply chain, strategy and systems.
After its acquisition by Iceland in 2000 Wilson was appointed as managing director of Booker. From 2001 to 2003 he has a spell at Arcadia Group before moving to Marks & Spencer as executive director for property, IT and the supply chain. He rejoined Booker in 2005 as chief executive.
2005 and beyond: Clearly no stranger to the rich patterns of trade that are Booker, Wilson is expected to push hard to regain catering custom and set out an agenda for the smaller troubled depots, many of which are looking decidedly drab set against the fabulousness of new openings. The brakes may be put on Premier recruitment to ensure standards in the existing Premier estate make the grade.
What he says: “We are working hard to improve our ranges, availability and pricing for our customers and I am confident that they will see the benefits throughout 2006.”
8. Guy McCracken
Current position: Co-operative Group chief executive of Food Retailing
Responsible for: 1,700-plus food stores
Career history: McCracken was appointed Co-operative Group chief executive of food retailing in May 2005. He was formerly joint managing director of Marks & Spencer, where he led the food division from 1993 to 1998 and during which time he held a number of other board positions within the company.
He was also a non-executive director of the confectionery group Glisten from 2004 until his appointment at the Co-operative Group.
In recent years the Co-op has focused its attention on small format c-stores. This accelerated in 2002 with the acquisition of the Alldays chain of stores, and continued with the purchase of Balfour in 2003. In 2004 the Group further strengthened its position in the c-store sector when it bought 64 stores from Conveco.
2005 and beyond: The group recorded food retail sales of just over £3bn in 2005, and was linked with the takeover of Nisa-Today’s and other retail giants. While the former never materialised this year will again see the Group linked with other big names in food retail as it settles further into the c-store market.
What he says: “ The Co-operative Group is one of the best known brands in UK retailing. My priority is to lead the Group’s food retail programme in a challenging and competitive food retail environment.”
9. David Rae
Current position: Association of Convenience Stores chief executive.
Responsible for: Ensuring the views, causes and opinion of its more than 32,000 local stores are disseminated and battles won.
CAREER HISTORY: After spending most of his working life in the oil industry, always on the retail side of the business, Rae joined the wholesale group Key Lekkerland as managing director in 1996. During his five years there group turnover doubled and Key Lekkerland became a major supplier to the forecourt industry.
Rae joined the ACS as chief executive in September 2001 and since that time he has led the organisation in its fight for a more level playing field with the multiple sector and campaigns concerning underage drinking, anti-social behaviour and Sunday trading hours.
2005 and beyond: The end of 2005 was in many ways a triumph for Rae and his team at the ACS. Their work culminated at the year end with the ruling by the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) must reconsider quickly its decision not to refer the grocery market to the Competition Commission. 2006 will see if that good work will pay off.
What he says: “We are delighted that the CAT has made clear that the OFT must work swiftly to produce a new decision on this important issue.”
10. Colin Graves
Current position: Costcutter chairman and managing director.
Responsible for: 1,370 c-stores.
Career history: After working for a Spar wholesaler for 17 years, rising to the position of sales director, Graves decided to launch a new company under the Costcutter banner in 1986.
It started as a family business that was initially run from home with a garage full of stock, but Graves soon joined forces with Nisa-Today’s to allow Costcutter to expand nationally.
Since its launch the company has grown from seven c-stores in 1986 to over 1,370 c-stores today. Under Graves’ continued stewardship the Costcutter name has expanded into Europe and it now has 60 stores in Poland, more than 120 stores in Northern Ireland and 50 stores in the Republic of Ireland.
Graves was the first in the symbol sector to introduce in-store radio, with Costcutter Digital Radio broadcasting to 2.5 million consumers.
The company has a current turnover of £437m.
2005 and beyond: While the loss of the Beaumonts chain to Sainsbury’s had to be taken on the chin, the recruitment of many disgruntled former Londis retailers put a positive spin on 2005 for the company. It will now look to continue its steady progress in the sector throughout the coming year.
What he says: “I believe that shoppers are already rediscovering the benefits of top-quality neighbourhood stores because they have the right offer - cleanliness, range, competitiveness and helpful staff.”
Bestway chairman Sir Anwar Pervez made headlines in 2005 with the acquisition of rival cash & carry chain Batleys in a deal reported to be close to £100m. It took the company’s total estate to nearly 50 and put it firmly in the number two position within the cash & carry sector.
As chairman of the All Party Small Shops Group, Jim Dowd MP has been leading the inquiry into the future of the country’s high streets. The conclusions from this inquiry are due any day, with many hoping the results will help fuel pressure on the Office of Fair Trading for a full market review.
For United Co-operative chief executive Peter Marks, 2005 didn’t see any acquisitions. However, now that the Neighbours and Quality Fayre chains are bedded in, 2006 could well witness the c-store chain once again whipping out its cheque book and expanding.