The driving force and founder of Costcutter group steps down

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THE founder of Costcutter Supermarkets Group, Colin Graves, whose resignation was announced yesterday, grew the business from seven Yorkshire stores to more than 1,700 stores over 25 years.

Headquartered in York, Costcutter, which is predominantly a franchise business, now has retail sales of more than £1bn and a workforce of more than 600.

Mr Graves, who has worked in the independent sector of the grocery industry for the past 40 years, became an entrepreneur relatively late in life at 37 after a career in sales with the Spar chain of supermarkets.

The son of a Goole farmer, he had always dreamt of becoming a PE teacher and it was a career he aspired to until he landed a place in Sheffield to study physical education and changed his mind.

He joined the Hull branch of Lloyds in 1967 but only lasted 18 months until Spar tempted him away with the prospect of a company car as a sales rep with the firm.

He stayed for 17 years, rising to the role of sales director for Amalgamated Food, which he occupied for five years, before serving as director of Spar UK. Mr Graves left to take a job as managing director of Sharpe’s, a Manchester printing company. After six months he returned to work as a consultant with a group of disgruntled Spar retailers. Mr Graves bought the Costcutter name and set up a rival brand to Spar in 1986.

Today, with more than 1,700 convenience stores and off-licences throughout the UK and Ireland, Costcutter has more than 200 own-brand products sitting alongside major brands including Birds Eye, Walkers, Cadbury, McCain and Andrex.

Late last year, Costcutter was bought out by major shareholder Bibby Line Group, with Costcutter’s management staying on. Mr Graves took on the role of chief executive of Bibby Retail Services on top of his role of executive chairman of Costcutter.

Costcutter had rejected a £51m takeover approach from Bibby Line Group in August 2009, following fruitless merger talks between the two firms in previous years.

Mr Graves is to become executive chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, combining the new role of Yorkshire’s chief executive with that of his current position of club chairman, it was announced yesterday.

Costcutter said that Mr Graves was offered the position of non-executive chairman following a restructuring of the board of directors, but that he didn’t accept the offer. In a statement, Costcutter said Mr Graves leaves the group “in a position of real strength”.

Michael Bibby, managing director of Bibby Line Group, said Mr Graves’ “commitment and enthusiasm to retailers” will continue to be the driving force behind the company’s plans for the future.

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