As another store opens its doors today, a co-operative is celebrating a successful 2020 with 15 new franchise stores across the south of England.
With a total of 48 stores now operating under the Welcome brand offered by Southern Co-op, it hopes to hit the 50 store milestone in the next few months.
Despite the pandemic, the growth has beaten the previous year's increase in stores of 12 and has included both new partnerships and existing franchisee expansions.
Mike Fitton, Southern Co-op's Franchise Business Manager, said: 'We continue to give our franchisees great support especially in the key weeks before and after opening.
'At the beginning of the year, the outlook wasn't in our favour but I am really proud of what my team and our franchise partners have achieved especially as most of the stores openings had to be pushed back due to the pandemic.
'We couldn't have achieved this success without strong partnerships and it also means more communities now have access to a great range of products and support right on their doorsteps.'
Southern Co-op, the regional, independent co-operative which operates more than 200 convenience food stores across the south of England, currently has Welcome franchise stores spread across the south from Bristol to Kent and into central London.
The franchise stores include a mix of high street and village convenience stores as well as petrol forecourts offering customers a range of popular and modern services.
Mike Fitton said: 'The need for convenience is matched by consumers becoming more health conscious, wanting to support local businesses and being more aware of a company's sustainability policies.
'Our Welcome franchisees offer their customers a full range of options which satisfy these needs as they get the best of both - the full range of Co-op own label products alongside ultra local products.
'With our support, our franchise stores have gone from strength to strength and we're currently looking at a range of ways to continue offering shoppers great customer service whilst helping our franchisees to better manage demand.'