Independent retailers could get their hands on more sites following Threshers’ decision to offer one-third of its off-licences as franchises.

As many as 600 of the stores set aside for franchises could be up for grabs from May after store managers and employees have been given first refusal.

The Threshers Group now operates about 2,000 UK outlets branded either Threshers or The Local - an off-licence with a c-store offer. It purchased 200 stores from collapsed rival Unwins in December.

A spokesman would not rule out the chance that the entire 2,000 estate would adopt a franchise format. “We’ve currently selected 600 profitable stores as suitable for franchise and will continue to review our entire estate,” he said.

“We have yet to assess the recently acquired Unwins stores for suitability as franchises and it is far too early to make any judgement about how many of our stores could eventually become franchised.”

Further business opportunities could also arise as the UK’s second largest off-licence chain, Bargain Booze, announced a £63.5m buyout. The company, which already operates on a franchise basis, has pledged to open a new store every week for the next year, concentrating on the south of England.

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