Cooplands of Doncaster continued with its ambitious expansion plan this month after acquiring two shops from Sparks Confectioners in Bradford.

The company, which has plans to double the size of its business over the next five years, bought 10 Ainsleys shops out of administration earlier this year. The two Sparks shops are leased from Morrisons supermarkets and have a combined turnover of £0.7m, employing 20 staff. The shops, to be rebranded as Cooplands within the month, take the firm’s retail estate to 89 stores, with over 800 staff. Annual sales stand at around £22m.

Executive chairman Chris Peck commented: "The stores are in high footfall locations and the heritage and family culture of Sparks fit seamlessly with our own business, which has been in retail baking for almost 80 years. We are proud to be a Yorkshire-based business, offering fresh, artisan and high-quality handmade products representing great value. We see this as a crucial differentiation from our national retail bakery competitors, who we believe are primarily price-focused and sell mass-produced products."

Cooplands has also launched a shop refurbishment programme across its estate with two shops revamped and a further five or six to carry the new look by end of the year. Sales have increased by around 20% at the shops that have been updated.

"The market remains challenging and the pricing strategy of the market leaders remains very unclear and defensive," said Peck. "With commodity cost inflation in flour and wheat-influenced proteins impacting the retail bakery sector, we might have expected market leaders to be driving prices up, with the rest of the market following, helping themselves to an operating margin uplift at the same time."

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