OPINION: How to stock global cuisines to suit your local demographic – Jeet Bansi, Meon Vale Londis, Stratford-upon-Avon

Talk to your customers and see what they’d like to see, and then see if you can deliver that in your own store

Shopping trolley cart shopper aisle generic supermarket

We have a range of ethnic cuisines all in the same aisle with a dedicated bay filled with traditional condiments, packaged soups and tinned groceries from Asia and Europe. It’s important to make sure our customer demographic can grow and that we can cater for them. We can’t just cater for the ‘average grocery shopper’, if there is such a thing. It is the whole market that has to be catered for.

We have Polish and Romanian ketchups and mayonnaise, as well as tinned cabbage and beans, and three types of biscuits. It’s important to stock the key lines in the core categories because those customers are far more likely to notice them as they’re familiar. It would be same if we were abroad and spotted a can of Heinz. That’s helped to grow our sales. From those core lines, we then started to get a reputation and were able to start buying other products.

These products have good margins, too, and we work closely with the suppliers to ensure we get to a price that’s reasonable for customers. It’s been a real footfall driver and a category that I would certainly recommend. We’ve found Indian cuisine to be a very good category for us. We do all the jars of pickles and sauces, all merchandised together. Mexican and Chinese are the same. They’re all in the same aisle and that encourages shoppers to browse it, increasing dwell time, which increases basket spend.

If you walk up the aisle, you’ve got tinned groceries, packaged soup and then it goes into Mexican, then Polish, then Romanian and then at the end there’s a fridge dedicated to Eastern European beers. We sell a lot of these products to non-Eastern Europeans as well because customers like to try something different. It creates a talking point for them.

We have one international supplier that delivers from Poland and we get a weekly order from them. We use Monolith to get some products as well as a few other suppliers. We pick the best offer and then we use it to increase our availability. Some products from Poland give us 45%-50% margin. And it’s still a reasonable price for the customers. With other suppliers, the minimum margin is 25% and that’s almost giving it away.

Talk to your customers and see what they’d like to see, and then see if you can deliver that in your own store. If there’s something that someone particularly wants, you can talk to them and they get to know what days we’ve got certain things in. That helps to build that relationship with them. We’ve seen the category grow since we started it.

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