Furniture and housewares group Freedom Group is to take over the leases of David Jones’ four Foodchain stores in New South Wales and Victoria.

Upmarket retailer David Jones has decided to exit the gourmet food retail business as part of a company-wide review.

The stores will be rebranded and operated as Bayswiss outlets. Freedom Group’s managing director Rod Walker has described the Bayswiss business as the group’s number one growth vehicle. He said the sites would retain some elements of Foodchain.

“I would think that we would keep some of the elements of the David Jones Foodchain experience but for all intent and purpose they will be Bayswiss stores,” Walker told Australian Associated Press.

“The four sites have come up where the demographics are perfect for Bayswiss and when we were approached by David Jones, we obviously took a very close look at it and decided they would make good stores so we went ahead to negotiate a deal,” he said.

As part of the deal Freedom would receive an incentive payment of A$10m (US$6.6m) to help offset the high costs of the leases.

Walker said that Freedom currently operated 19 Bayswiss outlets and including the four new sites, Bayswiss would have 28 outlets by the end of 2003.