Having a USP in a highly competitive market is vital to compete and stand out. For his third store, Bolton-based retailer Baz Jethwa opted for a Spar fascia to focus on food to go. Gurpreet Samrai reports

Every good convenience retailer has a USP that sets them apart from the competition, but how is that established when you’re opening a new store in an area already well served by a nearby supermarket?

Team spiritThat was the dilemma faced by Bolton retailer Baz Jethwa, who opened the doors of his third site, Rocket Stores, earlier this month.

“I looked at the area and there was a Morrisons nearby, which is one of the busiest in Bolton. We looked at their offering and thought, if we are going to compete against them, we need to make sure we have got the right offer in-store and the right layout,” says Baz.

For Baz, determining his USP was the easy part. “Fresh and food to go is where I want to take my business, it is my USP. The category is going to be worth another £3bn by 2020,” he says.

His first real challenge was making sure he had the right symbol group behind him to take that focus “to another level”.

“I already have two Costcutter stores. Costcutter is good and I have got where I am because of them, but Spar is very good at food to go and fresh and we wanted to take it to another level. We needed to make sure we had the right wholesaler partner behind us to do that,” says Baz.

The 5,000sq ft store – formerly The Rocket pub – has a 3,000sq ft sales area, with one-third dedicated to food to go, including a Daily Deli hot food counter, ready-made sandwiches with meal deals, a Costa Express machine, a slush machine, and cakes, cookies, and bread from local bakery Clayton Park.

“The Morrisons does food to go well, but we have tried to do it better. We have a lot of local products, for example the sandwich meats and some of the pastries come through a local supplier. Our offer is also convenient. The Morrisons is a large format store so it might take 25 minutes by the time you get your hot meal there, whereas with ours it’s more like 10 minutes,” says Baz. “We’ve had really good feedback about it. The hot meals have been the most popular and we sold 400 slush cups in the first week.”

“The Morrisons is a large format store so it might take 25 minutes by the time you get your hot meal there, whereas with ours it’s more like 10 minutes”

Another 1,000sq ft of the store is dedicated to fresh produce, with a loose fruit and veg section as well as packaged options and flowers in a crate-style display at the front of the store.

“Fresh is one of the store’s focal points, and it’s worked really well. It’s so important because people don’t want to do a big shop anymore, they want fresh food daily, they want food for now,” says Baz.

Other features include deals on every end bay, three metres of frozen, more than 24 metres of chilled dairy space and a wide selection of alcohol including more than five metres dedicated to wine, as well as an ATM outside the store and 20 parking spaces.

News & MagsThe store shelving has also been kept to a “low level” to make it more inviting for customers to browse.

For Baz, the make-up of Rocket Stores is the format of the future and one he will be replicating at his two other Bolton stores. He also revealed it will be the base for a new store he is set to open in Manchester in the next few months.

“We have created three feature areas around fresh, Daily Deli and alcohol. That’s the way forward and for that we have the right wholesale partner, which is key,” says Baz.

“The local population have been really positive and have said it’s really convenient. We opened at 3pm on Thursday and by 4pm on the Monday we’d had almost 4,000 transactions, and the average basket spend was around £6.50. I’m happy with the basket spend, but it will grow because our availability will get better as we identify what our customers want.”

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