The Co-op Group is to acquire four Little Waitrose c-stores from The John Lewis Partnership as the latter group pursues a new business strategy focusing on “differentiation, not scale”.
An offer has been accepted for the Co-op to purchase two Little Waitrose convenience stores in Manchester - at Piccadilly station and Spinningfields - plus others in Colmore Row, Birmingham and Portman Square, London.
The full details have yet to be finalised, but the sale is expected to complete in the autumn.
A small Waitrose supermarket in Camden, London, is also earmarked for disposal, and John Lewis has accepted an offer from Aldi to acquire the site. The Partnership said that it expects its first-half profits to be “close to zero” this year, but that it would continue to invest at a rate of £400m-£500m per year, along with an additional boost to the balance sheet of £500m over three years.
For Waitrose, this means a stronger focus on core customers through the development of unique products and services, including a wider portfolio of own-brand lines and an enhanced health and wellbeing range. Staff will also be given additional training to become “Food Ambassadors”, with more experts available in-store to give specialist advice to shoppers.
Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “The John Lewis Partnership is a unique business with different ownership, a different purpose and a different outlook to any of our competitors. As retail changes we need to tread a path that enables us to thrive as a business while building on the qualities that make us different.
“For us, the relentless pursuit of greater scale is not the right course. Our plans put differentiation, innovation and Partner-led service at the heart of our offer.”
Stuart Hookins, director of property portfolio and development at the Co-op, added: “We are pleased to have worked with Waitrose to agree the purchase of four of its convenience stores. Our acquisition and refit programme forms a fundamental part of our food strategy. Our aim is for stores to be at the heart of local life, creating stronger communities and offering great quality products conveniently, when and where our members and customers need them.”