City stalwart Crispin Odey backs launch of upmarket grocery shop

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The Independent Online

An upmarket grocer backed by the hedge fund manager Crispin Odey will open its first shop in London tomorrow and has plans to become a nationwide chain.

Union Market aims to combine the provenance and traceability of food sold at farmers' markets with the consistency, opening hours and regular product range of a supermarket.

Tony Bromovsky, the founder and commercial director of Union Market, said: "There is a big niche between farmers' markets and industrial supermarkets."

Mr Odey's company, Odey Asset Management, is a significant shareholder in Union Market. Mr Bromovsky said: "They saw the whole point of what we were doing very early on."

David Fletcher, the chairman of Odey Asset Management, is also the chairman of Union Market.

The first Union Market store, with a food hall covering 5,000 square feet, will open in Fulham Road, South-west London, tomorrow. Mr Bromovsky said: "We would like to open two to three shops a year – up to 10 in London – and then go nationwide."

But industry experts warned that Union Market was opening in a tough trading environment for grocer.

Whole Foods Market, the US health and organic food specialist, has suffered significant losses since it opened its flagship British store in Kensington, South-west London, three years ago, although trading is thought to have improved recently.

Mr Bromovsky said that its prices would be "much lower" than Whole Foods. "We will be definitely comparable to Waitrose in price," Mr Bromovsky said. While Union Market will sell organic food, it is not its core focus. The grocer will source about 80 per cent of its food, including lager, cheese and vegetables, from the UK. Bryan Roberts, the global research director at Planet Retail, said: "There is evidence that the boom years for farmers' markets have dissipated as people watch their pennies. On the plus side, there is still a market out there for people who still want to pay a premium for provenance and traceability."

In addition to a dining area, Union Market will offer clearly marked departments, including for a deli and fresh fruit and vegetables. It had planned to launch last year in London but a clothing retailer took its initial target store.