Somerfield has put its franchise model on hold as it seeks to learn lessons from its experiences of dealing with independent retailers.

Despite much interest in the model when it was announced, there are only five independents currently in the trial and a number of high-profile retailers have recently defected. The multiple will now aim to refine the format before embarking on any wider roll-out.

Among the former Somerfield franchisees, three of them have signed new supply deals with Nisa. Anglian Convenience Stores’ outlet in Heacham, Norfolk, is already being supplied by Nisa under the HeadS brand, while Raj Patel’s store in Castle Vale, Birmingham and Graham Knowles’ Somerfield at Mace outlet in Aberdeen will soon convert to Nisa Extra and Nisa Local fascias respectively.

Somerfield’s planograms, fee structure and overall flexibility of offer have been criticised by some retailers, while the closure of the former Aberness depot in Scotland effectively left Graeme Knowles without a supplier. He pointed to Nisa-Today’s strong focus on the retailer as playing a major part in his decision.

Graeme said: “As soon as Somerfield pulled out of Aberness, I lost my source of supply and had to look around for an alternative. The move to Nisa-Today’s will give me and the store the stability we haven’t had recently.”

Somerfield’s head of convenience business Steve Henshaw said: “Franchising is a key element in our business strategy and our focus on convenience, so it is important we spend time adjusting the model before commencing a large scale roll-out.”

Musgrave Budgens-Londis (MBL) has also reiterated its support of the independent franchise model, which it claims is proving a great success with retailers. MBL managing director Mike Taylor said: “We are pressing ahead with the divestment of corporate stores and continuing to attract progressive independent retailers who are willing to invest in their businesses and who value long-term relationships. Only recently we opened two new stores, at Barnwood, Gloucestershire and Bramley, near Guildford in Surrey, both of which are already trading extremely well.”

Palmer & Harvey McLane, which completes the acquisition of Somerfield’s interest in Mace on July 11, has presented its support package to Mace retailers in Scotland. Retailers will be serviced from P&H’s depot in Dunfermline and will have access to the M brand own-label range as well as technology packages from YP Electronics.

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