Supermarket group Waitrose continued its bid for a nationwide presence yesterday as it announced plans to buy a string of stores from rival Morrisons.
The deal for five sites, including at Durham and Wilmslow, Cheshire, follows the group's purchase of another set of stores from Morrisons last year that spearheaded its push outside of its traditional southern heartland.
The group said the 19 stores acquired last year had been trading well, proving Waitrose's nationwide appeal.
The stores included in the latest deal are part of the Safeway chain bought by Morrisons for £3 billion.
Morrisons has already offloaded 52 of the outlets in accordance with competition rules but decided to sell the latest stores because they do not fit in with its portfolio.
The other three outlets are at East Grinstead in West Sussex, Lewes in East Sussex and St Katharine's Dock in London. The deal is expected to be completed in October or November and the stores should be converted in time for Christmas.
Waitrose, a division of the John Lewis Partnership, traces its roots back to 1904 when its first shop was opened in west London by three men including Wallace Waite and Arthur Rose.
Excluding the new deal - which is subject to approval by the Office of Fair Trading - it
has 167 branches. In the Midlands they include Wolverhampton, Stourbridge, Cheltenham, Great Malvern, and, in Birmingham, Four Oaks and Hall Green. Its share of the UK grocery market stands at nearly four per cent while it has seven per cent in the south of England.
Meanwhile the boss of Carlsberg said the brewer was continuing to capture market share in the UK, but lamented the trend of Britons opting to drink alcohol at home.
Nils Andersen said the brewer had picked up a further 0.6 per cent of the UK beer market compared with a year ago, and at a time when some of its key competitors struggled.
Carlsberg is best known in the UK for Yorkshire bitter Tetley's as well as the lager that carries its own name. The Danish brewer sponsors Liverpool FC and its results for the six months to June 30 covers the club's triumph in the European Cup.
Mr Andersen said he believed the UK beer market was shrinking, and noted the recent estimate by rival Scottish & Newcastle that it was 3.9 per cent smaller than a year ago.
Net revenues from Carlsberg's global operations rose by five per cent to 17.8 billion Danish kroner (£1.6 billion) - driven by the growth at its Baltic Beverages Holding joint venture with Scottish & Newcastle. For the six months to June 30, operating profis from its drinks business rose by 209 million Danish kroner to 1.31 billion Danish kroner.