Thistledove, through its subsidiary TM Retail, is snapping hard at the heels of newsagents WH Smith. Started in 1901 with one shop, the Surrey-based company now operates the Forbuoys, Martins and McColl chains of newsagents and convenience stores. Its 1,200 stores include 400 post offices and serve 9 million customers a week. It reported sales of £871m in 2000, when the company had 13,192 employees.
Thistledove was formed after a management buy-out of Forbuoys newsagents from Gallagher plc in 1995, backed by L&G Ventures and HSBC, along with Gallagher’s cigarette and food vending business. The company then acquired the Martin Retail Group for 113m euros in 1998. Since then it has concentrated on its retail business, selling the cigarette vending business to Imperial Tobacco and refreshment vending business to the Compass Group in 2001.
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