Your jobs are safe, company promises store staff

"Haldanes who?" is the main question chief operating officer Richard Collins expected Netto staff to ask when they heard that the company had taken over some of its stores.

The newest addition to the mid-sized supermarket sector plans to fill the gap left by Netto after acquiring 20 of its stores from rival Asda for the launch of its new discount brand, UGO. But the directors realise they have a lot of work still to do on establishing the name.

The supermarket company, which is owned by Yorkshireman Arthur Harris, already operates 23 stores under the Haldanes name – just over a year since it was launched.

The UGO – pronounced You Go – stores will stretch from Northumberland to Warwickshire, including sites in Bradford, Hull, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and across Lancashire.

Mr Harris, who has a retail background in convenience stores and petrol stations, said he was also looking at two more stores for the UGO brand in Leeds.

Management have now visited every one of its Netto stores, telling the 450 staff about the new brand and reassuring them that their jobs are safe.

Mr Collins said: "We know we're not one of the big supermarket names so we have a lot of work to do in telling staff about who we are and what we do."

Haldanes will spend 2m on converting the stores, which it bought for an undisclosed sum, to the UGO brand.

"We believe UGO will be Netto and more," said Mr Collins. "We believe we can fill the gap left by Netto and make it better."

One of the problems it aims to address is the complaint that shoppers are unable to do a full weekly shop at discount supermarkets because they do not stock everything they need.

As well as improving the fresh food offering that Netto already stocks, it will more than double the number of individual branded groceries, to about 3,000, and enhance the range of health and beauty products. Haldanes plans to introduce cash machines to all stores and will accept credit cards from day one as well as explore consumer credit opportunities.

The UGO brand capitalises on the yellow and black fascia of Netto, which it says is "distinctive and trusted" and will provide reassurance for customers.

The stores will be closed for 14 hours for refurbishment over a two-week period in March. Haldanes says it will also maintain the Netto pricing and plans to introduce home deliveries.

"We're not trying to mend something that isn't broken," said Mr Collins. "We are making something better. We will be the icing on top of Netto's cake."

Former athlete Geoff Capes will front the marketing campaign, and last week Haldanes also secured an advertising slot for the 2011 Rugby League season.

In the future, the company intends to introduce a loyalty card and said it would inevitably be building its own stores in years to come.

"I am sure we will open new-build stores in the future but the opportunities in property are all over the place so there is no reason for us to look at new-build at the moment," said Mr Harris.

Grantham-based Haldanes said it is also in "advanced discussions" to buy eight convenience stores and has already acquired a petrol forecourt and a convenience store with a post office.

All of the convenience forecourt stores will be branded Haldanes Xpress, meaning that the Haldane Retail group has three brands.

The business was formed in November 2009 after the Co-operative Group agreed with the Office of Fair Trading to offload 133 outlets following its acquisition of Somerfield.

It is believed to be the first mid-sized supermarket chain to open in the UK for 27 years.

Branded "Refreshingly Local", a key policy of the chain is to source more than a third of its products from local producers.

Scunthorpe-based Nisa-Today's is the main supplier for the group, which already has a 50m turnover, although Mr Harris said he was already looking at creating his own supply company.

The Scarborough-born retail entrepreneur wants to create a chain of 50 shops and become a 100m business.

Chris Laud, group finance director, said: "This latest project is a step in the right direction to achieving our goal."

UGO stores in Yorkshire

Almost half of the 20 Netto stores acquired by Haldanes for its discount UGO brand are based in Yorkshire. They are

at:

Bradford, West Yorkshire

Athersley, South Yorkshire

Lundwood, South Yorkshire

Monk Bretton, South Yorkshire

Carcroft, South Yorkshire

Rotherham, South Yorkshire

Boothferry, Hull, East Yorkshire

Eton Street, Hull, East Yorkshire

Preston Road, Hull, East Yorkshire

They will all be converted to the new brand, along with 11 other stores, in March as part of a 2m rebranding and refurbishment programme by Haldanes.