FRANCHISE chain Bargain Booze is to use the proceeds of its flotation on the AIM stock exchange to increase its presence in the southeast.


The 611 store group of cut-price off licences last month raised over £65m in an initial public offering.


Now it hopes to expand from its northern heartland and emulate discounters such as Aldi, Poundland and Lidl, which have taken advantage of the downturn to grow their appeal in prosperous areas such as London and the home counties.


The company is also earmarking around 10 per cent of the shares to reward independent retailer franchisees who reach certain targets.


Diana Hunter, chief executive of Crewe-based Conviviality Retail, which owns the Bargain Booze brand, said the recession had changed shopping habits: "Value has been totally democratised. Everyone understands the importance of value now."


Specialist off-licence groups have suffered more than all-round convenience stores during the recession.


Threshers, Wine Rack and Oddbins all fell into administration over the last few years.


But Hunter said she was confident that Bargain Booze stores could successfully compete against the likes of Tesco. "We carry a deeper range in our assortment than a supermarket's convenience store," said Ms Hunter.


Conviviality Retail said it also planned to achieve growth for members by broadening its wine offering, which currently accounts for just over a tenth of turnover.