FT Niza Texaco Welcome Culverstone Gravesham Kent

Niza’s Culverstone store

Top 50 Indie Niza Group has helped Southern Co-op achieve its 50th franchise store under its Welcome fascia with the conversion of its Culverstone site in Gravesham, Kent.

The store on the Texaco forecourt had been with Londis for a number of years before converting to Welcome with an extensive internal refit.

Niza Group already had a Welcome fascia at its Southwater site, and managing director Visvanathan Ragunathan said: “Our customers love the quality and ethical stance of the Co-op and already our fresh food sales are exceeding our expectations. I really liked the support that was offered and the EPOS system really helps me manage my business and stock holding.”

The news came as the regional co-operative became the only convenience store chain with membership of two national franchise bodies.

Southern Co-op’s franchise division recently became the only convenience store chain member of the Quality Franchise Association.

Southern Co-op is also the only convenience store chain that is a Full Member of the British Franchise Association (bfa) after completing a robust accreditation process in 2020.

Both bodies are not for profit, trade associations which work with their partners to promote ethical franchising.

Joel Bissitt, chief executive officer at Quality Franchise Association, said: “We are delighted to welcome Southern Co-op into full membership. They provide such a valuable service to local communities and have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic.

“Their values including that of community are very much aligned with ours and we look forward to working with the team in the coming years.”

Southern Co-op currently partners with 24 franchisees, including Top 50 Indies Niza Group and George Hammond plc, which operate 51 stores from Devon to Kent and into central London.

Mike Fitton, franchise business manager at Southern Co-op, said: “Every person who is part of our franchise family is passionate about what they do and it shows. Our franchisees enjoy giving back to their local communities.

“By developing strong partnerships within our Welcome family, our stores and teams have gone from strength to strength with positive like-for-like increases across all departments. We are all looking forward to the future as convenience stores continue to be relied on locally.”

Southern Co-op’s franchise team offers retailers personalised support with access to specialists in merchandising, artwork, planning, space and sales analysis.

As well as access to major brands and Co-op own-label products, franchisees are also encouraged to expand a unique offering through supporting local producers.

Pip Wilkins, CEO of the bfa said: “Full membership of the bfa recognises a franchisor’s commitment to, and value of, ethical franchising practices. Southern Co-op has undergone rigorous checks against an extensive set of criteria to become a member and is testament to their unwavering commitment to best practice and their long-term investment in ethical franchising.”

Niza and George Hammond were ranked 46 and 44 respectively in the most recent Top 50 Indies. For details of this year’s Top 50 Indies click here.