Morrisons buys 49 Blockbuster stores

 

Supermarket Morrisons has bought 49 stores from failed DVD and games rental chain Blockbuster as it steps up plans to expand its convenience business.

The deal will not prevent any of the job cuts already announced by Blockbuster administrators Deloitte, but Morrisons said it hopes to create around 1,000 jobs as it reopens the shops as convenience stores.

The UK's fourth-biggest grocer also announced the rebranding of its M Local convenience business to Morrisons M local.

Today's announcement - for an undisclosed sum - follows the recent acquisition of seven stores from collapsed camera retailer Jessops as Morrisons takes advantage of quick access to high street locations to build up its convenience chain.

It is accelerating expansion plans after struggling to compete because of its small number of convenience stores, as well as a lack of grocery delivery service.

Morrisons, which currently has 12 M Local stores, reported a disappointing 2.5% decline in like-for-like sales for the six weeks to December 30, which followed a 2.1% decline in the previous quarter.

The Bradford-based business is leading a fightback under recently appointed chief executive Dalton Philips, launching an advertising campaign fronted by TV presenters Ant and Dec earlier this year and sponsoring hit shows Britain's Got Talent and Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway.

Morrisons hopes to have at least 70 convenience stores by the end of 2013, while it is expected to announce the latest move towards a full-scale online food delivery service alongside its annual results on March 14.

Gordon Mowat, managing director of Morrisons Convenience, said: "We are rolling out the Morrisons M local estate at pace this year and these acquisitions give us a kickstart in securing a solid foothold in this key sector.

"The convenience market is growing as more people shop locally and we want to be in a position to take advantage of this."

Many of the Blockbuster stores are located in the South East - an area where Morrisons is keen to increase its presence - and are expected to open for trading by the end of the summer.

The stores bought are among the 164 stores earmarked for closure by Deloitte last week, which threatens around 800 jobs and comes on top of the 168 shop closures and 760 job cuts already announced.

Blockbuster, which had 528 staff and employed 4,190 staff, collapsed into administration last month after struggling to adapt to the changing market and rivalry from internet retailers including Netflix, Amazon's LoveFilm and iTunes, which now offers a movie rental service.

PA

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