Topshop boss to take on Aldi and Lidl with 50 BHS food shops

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Britain London Fashion Week A/W 2014 - Topshop Unique

Lidl and Aldi have an unlikely new rival - Top Shop tycoon Sir Philip Green. Green is set to introduce up to 50 discount BHS Food shops that he claims will be 10% cheaper than the major four supermarkets, including Asda.

How soon could BHS Food arrive - and will his food stores be really better value for money?

Cheaper?

The Mirror has already tried Green's cheaper-than-Asda/Tesco formula from 18 staples, including milk, cheese, washing-up liquid and loo rolls. The verdict? Cheaper, definitely.

"The total bill," says the Mirror, "came to £30.82 at BHS – compared to £32.28 at Asda, £37.20 at Tesco, £35.54 at Morrisons and £41.08 at Sainsbury's." The seemingly high prices of Tesco and Sainsbury's definitely raise eyebrows.

However, the Mirror did not benchmark against German cheapies Lidl and Aldi, who remain the out-and-out value retail leaders currently. Green is testing the concept in Warrington and Staines. If successful, it will be rolled out to up to 140 BHS department stores.

Experience?

Critics say the Topshop boss has little experience in food retailing, though this is probably missing the point. He has massive retail experience, just not in perishables. It's an operational shift rather than jumping into the unknown.

BHS though remains loss-making so a food section would attempt to follow, Green hopes, the massive success of M&S Food (Debenhams is also taking on food floor space). For the moment, Green is deploying cash-and-carry wholesaler Booker to supply the food lines.

Big Four slump

But it's unlikely BHS Food - supported by Booker's Family Shopper range - will be the high-gloss food experience that M&S-Waitrose offers.

Will Green succeed? Aldi saw sales climb more than 30% last year while Lidl sales rose 12%, claims recent Kantar data. Big changes are afoot in UK food retailing, from smaller convenience stores - paradoxically boosting local shop business, in some cases - to online and pound shops.

Green knows it. As do the Big Four. Tesco shares are currently close to a 12-month low, at 281.70p while Morrisons and Sainsbury's have also slumped heavily recently, selling at 202.60p and 305.30p respectively (at time of writing, 8 April).