Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s is carrying out a benchmarking exercise to compare how moving hundreds of its staff away from central London would compare with keeping them at its London headquarters.

Property Week understands that Cushman & Wakefield has been asked to assess the costs of a move to locations around the M25, and even as far as Leeds, Bristol, Manchester and Swindon.

However, industry sources this week said the chances of a large-scale move away from Sainsbury’s Holborn HQ are low, with the retailer wary of losing swathes of staff early in a painstaking recovery programme.

At the same time, it is thought that Sainsbury’s is also examining what rents it could achieve by sub-letting a proportion of its 33 Holborn HQ.

According to retail analysts the Cushman exercise is being driven by Sainsbury’s need to explore all avenues to increase profitability. Increasing sales is one route to growth, but so its cutting costs, they say.

While its sales are increasing, analysts say Sainsbury’s head office costs are still proportionately higher than arch-rivals Tesco and ASDA.

Tesco’s HQ is in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, and Asda’s is in Leeds, but while Sainsbury’s has weighed up the lower office costs of these locations it is thought to be more concerned about losing key staff.

One retail analyst told Property Week: `This is a high level exercise requested by the Sainsbury’s board. It is their duty to check comparable office costs.’

A Cushman team led by national offices chief Adrian Hill is understood to have examined terms at MEPC’s Leavesdon Park near Watford and Slough Estates’ 1.67m sq ft Farnborough Business Park, in Hampshire.

It is also understood to have asked for terms for Arlington Securities Hatfield Business Park, while a move further afield has been moved out.

Analysts say a move north – where rents would be up to half the £40 per sq ft it is thought to pay German fund DIFA for its 330,870 sq ft 33 Holborn HQ – would be far too distructive for the retailer to bear.

A Sainsburys spokesperson would only say: `We never comment on market rumour or speculation on corporate and property matters.’