AFTER getting the go-ahead to sell a chain of convenience stores to Tesco, entrepreneur Nigel Mills says he is setting off on new business ventures which he hopes will reach the same scale .
Founded 25 years ago by Mills and his father John, the Whitley Bay-based Mills Group was generating annual revenues of over £100m from its 77 convenience stores and eight supermarkets.
Tesco liked what the Mills Group was doing and made an offer, believed to be over £20m, for the company late last year.
The deal has just been cleared by the Office of Fair Trading, despite strong opposition from the Association of Convenience Stores, and last night Nigel Mills has revealed his plans.
He said: “I am young enough to build again and we are actively looking for new business opportunities. We will be launching a new consultancy business in the next few weeks.
“We currently have three supermarkets, one convenience store and The Trout Hotel in Cockermouth. We once had three hotels.
“We have property holdings and view ourselves as a property investment and development company.”
Mills would not elaborate on the nature of the consultancy business and said it was looking at additional business opportunities.
Mills has retained an eight-strong management team which has moved into a 1,500sq ft property he owns, on Seatonville Road, Whitley Bay.
He said: “I was in convenience stores for 25 years and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am still relatively young and want to build again. After all, a change is as good as a rest.”
The deal to sell to the One Stop division of Tesco means he is restricted from forays into the convenience store sector for the next 18 months.
He added: “Our next steps depend on the opportunities that present themselves. We have a reasonable platform of cash resources and a good, core management team still in place.
“I would like to think that whatever we do next will eventually reach the scale of achievements of the convenience stores.” Mills owns and operates supermarkets in Hetton-le-Hole, Elland, West Yorkshire and Worksop, Nottinghamshire. His one remaining convenience store is in Filey, East Yorkshire.
The Tesco deal will see over 750 Mills staff transfer to One Stop, including 35 staff based at the Mills Group head office in Whitley Bay.
All of the Mills convenience stores, almost half of which are in the North East and Cumbria, will become One Stop shops.
Tesco One Stop chief executive David Turner said: “Acquiring 77 Mills stores means we can introduce One Stop’s quality, range and value to the communities they serve.
“We’ll be investing in refurbishing the stores, creating an even better shopping experience, as well as bringing down prices. I am also delighted to welcome the staff in these stores to the One Stop team.”
Nigel Mills said: “These stores and their staff will be in great hands with One Stop. They’re joining a brilliant team and will be well looked after. I want to thank them for all their work and wish them the best for the future.
“The industry is changing. It requires a lot more investment to maintain your position. It is becoming harder and harder to find the funds to take a business to the next level.
“We started off as a business with a turnover of £2m a year and finished as a company with sales of £2m a week.”