Bottom Line: Despite the convenience boom, UK grocers are still thinking big

 
Marc Sidwell
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IF YOU need reminding of the grocery sector’s continuing ambition, all you have to do is step outside your office to the nearest supermarket convenience store.

These compact ventures have sprung up across city centres, going from 2,000 branches in 1998 to 14,000 and climbing today, a rate of increase that may seem to put their larger out-of-town cousins to shame: traditional supermarkets have added fewer than 2,000 branches over the same period.

But the latest CBRE numbers show these small footprints stores are far from the whole story and are still dwarfed by their owners’ ambition to develop superstores. That is why, for the first time ever, there is now more space in the grocery pipeline than the shopping centre pipeline can boast.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are all still expanding. Junior rivals Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Aldi and Lidl are increasing their space requirements too, eager to nip at the biggest players’ heels.

Planning restrictions make it unclear how many larger stores will be realised, but the supermarket space wars are not over yet.

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