MORRISONS insisted its target to open new convenience stores is unchanged after confirming the closure of four stores it bought last year.
The Bradford-based retailer has shut shops in Enfield in north London, Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire, Headington in Oxford and Kensington in west London.
A spokesman told The Yorkshire Post: “Just like other retailers, we modify our estate based on an evaluation of properties, their remaining lease and whether they remain commercially viable. Our target for convenience store openings is unchanged.”
Morrisons acquired stores from Blockbusters, Jessops and HMV last year to accelerate its expansion into the convenience store sector. The sector is growing as more people shop locally.
The spokesman said all stores were leasehold and staff are being moved to nearby stores.
It is understood that the Kensington store was not commercially viable; the Enfield store has run out of lease and a better store is available nearby; Morrisons has opened a new store within close distance of Waltham Cross and Headington also has a store nearby.
Insiders said that “both Sainsbury’s and Tesco do a lot of chopping and changing of convenience stores because they’re leasehold”.
Roger Owen, the former long-serving property director of Morrisons and a critic of the senior management team led by chief executive Dalton Philips, questioned the rationale behind Morrisons’ decisions.
He said: “Anybody in their right mind would know that Kensington would never be profitable.”
He said Morrisons acquired a store in the upmarket district through its takeover of Safeway a decade ago.
Mr Owen added: “We fortunately got rid of it because it never made any money.
“When I found out they had gone back into Kensington I was absolutely staggered. It was a major error of judgment that typifies much of what’s gone on.”
He said location is everything in retail and suggested that Morrisons had gone into the stores last year at “goodness knows what cost” just to get floor space.
“They are now starting to reap what they sow,” added Mr Owen.
Morrisons will have up to 170 convenience stores by the end of the year. It plans to open up to a 100 a year from 2015-16.
The group posted a 6.3 per cent drop in like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to November 2.