A convenience store expert who has taken on 36 of the 37 stores Conviviality Retail bought from GT News last month believes off-licence owners can look forward to a golden future.

Jonathan James has signed a 10-year deal to take all but one of the stores Bargain Booze and Wine Rack owner Conviviality bought in a £6 million deal.

Within five years he aims to have 100 off-licences in his empire and he told OLN: “It’s an extremely good time to be in this business, an extremely exciting time to be in convenience and to be working alongside Conviviality.”

James runs Cambridgeshire- based James Graven Group with wife Victoria, and already has two supermarkets and six petrol stations in his portfolio.

He is outgoing chairman of the Association of Convenience Stores, a position he has held for three years, and has also scoured the world for the best c-stores in an international role on the board of North American trade body NACS.

He believes nobody does convenience better than the Brits – apart from maybe the Irish – and says c-stores with a good range of beers, wines and spirits will thrive in modern Britain.

James said: “The Irish very much encompass the community aspect, the family-run business, suited to the community. They are really brilliant. In the UK we have some cracking stores. The UK and Ireland are without doubt the best in the world.

“I want to augment the great alcohol offer with the great convenience offer. The two very much marry together and make a good bespoke destination.”

The stores he has taken on are in Yorkshire and the East Midlands. Most will become Bargain Booze stores, retaining the current staff.

James plans to move into East Anglia and will consider opening Wine Rack fascias if the right site becomes available.

He said: “We are very much in growth mode. Within five years I want 100 stores. We are looking to maximise the area we currently trade in, and I am very keen on bringing the offer to East Anglia.”

He added: “I have had an eye on Conviviality for some time. It is really going places. I like the c-store specialism. It gives the group a great point of difference. The whole idea is to grow the business, working with the Conviviality team, which listens to franchisees and reacts accordingly.

“I have had numerous retailers asking to talk about it. A lot of people are interested in that c-store specialism. A lot more independent retailers are open to that franchise model – it offers security, discipline and buying power. I have run Budgens and Spar stores before and being in a franchise opens up opportunities for me and allows me to grow. ”

Amanda Jones, chief operating officer at Conviviality Retail, said: “James is a highly skilled operator and we are looking forward to growing our brands with him. Following an increase in average franchisee profits of 10% last year, we’re committed to developing incentives to attract the best.

“Our priority is to drive profit for our franchisees by providing outstanding central support, performance-related shares and over-rider schemes.

“Stores can now receive up to 3,500 free company shares and a quarterly over-rider payment of up to 1% of wholesale spend. There’s also a half-year growth incentive payment of 0.25% of wholesale spend and a new 1% rebate on wholesale spend for stores hitting achievable criteria.”