SOMERFIELD: Stores in Chatteris, Wisbech, March and Whittlesey part of Co-op sale
FOUR Somerfield stores in the Fens could have a change of name after the Co-op agreed a take over. The name Somerfield is to set to disappear from the high street after the company was bought this week by the Co-op in a £1.6bn deal.There are 15 stores ac
FOUR Somerfield stores in the Fens could have a change of name after the Co-op agreed a take over.
The name Somerfield is to set to disappear from the high street after the company was bought this week by the Co-op in a £1.6bn deal.
There are 15 stores across Norfolk, north Suffolk and the Fens and these will be rebranded as Co-op, if the deal is given the go-ahead by the competition authorities.
However it's not certain what will happen to the Somerfield store in Chatteris which has a large Co-op on the outskirts of town.
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Some analysts predicted today that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) would insist that about 120 of Somerfield's 880 stores nationwide would have to be sold to another retailer before the deal went ahead.
The takeover would make the Co-op the UK's fifth biggest retailer in Britain's £120bn grocery market, with a chain of more than 3,000 outlets and a market share of 8pc - behind Tesco (31pc), Asda and Sainbury's (both 16pc) and Morrisons (11pc).
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A Co-op spokesman said: "We expect to file with the OFT this month and hear back in late September.
"We cannot comment on individual locations until then. However, subject to the appropriate approvals for the transaction, we would intend to refit the Somerfield stores to the Co-operative brand."
Co-op chief executive Peter Marks said the Somerfield acquisition provided "rocket fuel" for the group's growth plans and was good news for consumers.
The Manchester-based mutual company has 2.5 million members and unveiled a three-year plan in April to double profits and invest £1.5bn in transforming its retail estate.
It is the third largest pharmaceuticals chain, the biggest provider of funeral services and the largest independent travel business in the country.
Mr Marks said convenience stores were already winning customers from their bigger out-of-town rivals, thanks to higher fuel costs persuading more people to shop locally.
"We will create a stronger fifth player in food and a convenience store chain with unrivalled geographic reach," he said. "In terms of the convenience market, it has been growing at a faster rate than the grocery market itself.
"People are concerned about time, but also about the cost of fuel.
"When they are making a decision 'do I drive five miles to a superstore or do I go down the bottom of the road and visit my local Co-op', that's affecting their decision making."
Somerfield, which is owned by a consortium including property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz, private equity firm Apax and investment bank Barclays Capital, generated £4.2bn of net sales in the year to April.
The Co-op's 2,300 food stores enjoyed a 4.7pc like-for-like sales rise during the first half of the year, while Somerfield's sales experienced "similar" growth.