SUPERMARKET bosses are being forced to sell two stores in Lydney and Coleford.
If Midcounties Co-up can't sell its newly-acquired Harry Tuffins stores in the towns, then the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) says it must sell the Co-op stores instead.
The Co-op bought the family-owned Tuffins brand in April but the OFT says it can't have both open in the same towns.
So it's been told to sell the Tuffins shops in Coleford and Lydney, as well as those in Bishop's Castle and Craven Arms in Shropshire.
Ben Reid, chief executive of Midcounties Co-op, said: "Following the acquisition of Harry Tuffins we have been consulting with the OFT regarding competition issues.
"Disappointingly the OFT have decided that we must sell stores in Bishop's Castle, Craven Arms, Lydney and Coleford. And as a result we are now actively talking to potential buyers.
"The OFT has decided as a further condition that if the Tuffins stores in Lydney and Coleford cannot be sold within a reasonable period of time, then we must attempt to sell the Midcounties' stores in those towns.
"This is obviously an unsettling time for our colleagues in the affected stores with whom we are consulting and providing appropriate support.
"In the meantime we remain fully committed to these stores while they are part of the Midcounties Co-operative and we will ensure all colleagues' roles will be protected."
The Co-op bought up Somerfield when it ran in to trouble around three years ago – then had to sell the Somerfield branches in Lydney and Coleford to Harry Tuffins, to satisfy the OFT.
Lydney mayor Bob Berryman said losing Tuffins would be keenly felt.
"I cannot understand why the Co-op bought Tuffins in the first place – they must have known this would happen," he said. "A lot of locals use Tuffins because they are reasonably priced and sell things that some of the other supermarkets don't."