UK grocery retailer Budgens, owned by Irish group Musgrave, plans to become a franchise-only business by 2007.

The chain has invited independent retailers to buy its 172 company-owned stores, reported Retail Week. The company already has 60 franchise stores, but plans to have 500 by 2008.

“Budgens, in its present format, has performed very strongly over recent years, but we believe the stores will perform even better and be more responsive to the communities they serve if owned and operated by independent franchise holders,” Musgrave managing director Seamus Scally was quoted by Retail Week as saying.