Somerfield stores Ltd is a grocery retailing business that has been operating in the UK since 1950 (under various different names). The Somerfield chain consists of 977 small to medium-sized supermarkets, making it the sixth largest supermarket group in the UK .
- Somerfield is merging with Co-operative food.
The Bristol-based company, which emerged from the former Gateway chain in the 1990s, is set to become part of the Co-operative Group in a £1.57 billion deal that will cement the Co-op’s position as Britain ’s fifth largest supermarket chain. The takeover deal was confirmed in October 2008 following the Office of Fair Trading’s approval and is expected to be officially concluded in March 2009.
The Co-op said some 650 Somerfield stores will be converted to its own-brand, while the Somerfield headquaters in Bristol will be closed and all operations relocated to the Co-operative Group’s existing head office in Manchester .
Somerfield's roots can be traced back to 1875 when a small family grocery store was opened in Bristol by J H Mills. By 1900 the store had expanded into a chain of 12 stores. Over the next 50 years these stores developed into a self-service supermarket chain that was re-branded as Gateway Foodmarkets in 1950. Gateway Foodmarkets was acquired by Linfood Holdings, which already owned the Frank Dee wholesaler business and a chain of 70 supermarkets, in 1977. The company was renamed the Dee Corporation six years later.
Between 1983 and 1987 a number of acquisitions and mergers were made, with Keymarkets, Lennons, International Stores, Fine Fare and the UK operations of Carrefour being added to the Dee Corporation. However, difficulties in trying to integrate all the disparate businesses into one resulted in the company re-launching its operations under the Somerfield brand.
In October 2004, Somerfield acquired 114 Safeway stores from WM Morrison and opened its first Market Fresh store in Wanstead. A year later, the supermarket chain was taken private by a consortium consisting of Apax Partners, Barclays Capital and the Tchenguiz Family Trust.
Somerfield Stores Ltd become a single fascia retailer in February 2006 following the sale of the Kwik Save brand and around 190 Kwik Save stores to investment vehicle - just 8 years after its £473 million acquisition of the discount food stores chain. Some of the remaining Kwik Save stores were retained and re-branded as Somerfield, while the others were sold to rival retailers.
More stores were closed in August 2006 as Somerfield's latest owners continued their restructuring activity. Some stores were sold to other groups, including Sainsbury’s, which bought 5 stores, while others were closed completely. In November, a further 12 stores were sold to Marks & Spencer to trade under the M&S Simply Food brand in November.
Somerfield is currently the sixth largest food retailer in Britain with 977 supermarket stores. The supermarket chain held a 3.8% share of the UK grocery market at the end of 2007 following the sale of the Kwik Save brand and the closure/ sale of unprofitable stores.
Unlike the big four supermarket chains, Somerfield has established itself as a community food retailer, specialising in convenience stores and small-medium sized supermarkets. In 2006, it ditched its Essentials and Market Fresh fascias to create a uniform store portfolio. Somerfield continues to operate a number of petrol forecourt stores.
Somerfield stores offer a range of own-label foods, ready meals and wines. The supermarket’s own-label brands consist of the ‘Best Ever’ premium food range, the low-price 'Simply Value' range and the healthy eating, low-calories range called ‘Healthy Choice’.