Harj Gill is taking on the discounters

Increasing competition from Aldi, Lidl and Tesco discounter Jack’s has done little to impact Harj Gill’s point of difference. Alex Yau reports

For the past 35 years, Harj Gill and his brothers, Bob and Rush, have established their Select & Save store as the primary convenience destination for residents in the small Birmingham suburb of Rubery.

The trio and their wives have since taken over the management from their parents and are continuing the tradition of delivering quality service not offered by the nearby supermarkets.

However, the Gills have seen increasing competition over the past few years from the discounters. An Aldi and Lidl are a short drive away, while Tesco’s new Jack’s discount chain opened close to their 2,500sq ft shop at the end of last year.

select-save-windmill-STAT.png“The discounters are providing more competition for us,” says Harj. “However, we’ve been in the area much longer than they have. We’ve become really familiar with the local residents and our relationship extends to knowing them on a first-name basis. We’ve not really seen the opening of Jack’s affect our sales too much because of this.”

The store is based in the centre of a residential parade and serves a customer base including elderly couples and single office workers. A large car park at the front of the shop accommodates passing trade or customers who want to do more than a small top-up shop.

However, the Gills aren’t relying solely on what has proved to be a successful model over the past two decades. Last year they became the symbol group’s first independent retailer to refit under Select & Save’s new store model.

The new design highlights the direction the symbol group is heading in, and the Gills are aiming to move forward alongside the business.

Rather than focus on modern fittings, the £25,000 refit, which took two weeks to complete, focused on arranging the store to better accommodate the Gills’ base of established and new customers. The store front has a new fascia design, while signage throughout the shop floor notifies customers of where products are held.

“It was quite a simple refit where we added zones dedicated to certain categories and moved some products to other areas,” says Harj. “For example, we’ve moved all our confectionery and impulse products to the left of the shop. Before, some of the products were separated. We also have a big focus on the £1 pricemarked grab bags. Customers just see more value in these as they can get more for their money.”

The discounters are providing more competition for us. However, we’ve been in the area much longer than they have

The changes have led to a 28% uplift in impulse sales, while average basket spend has also increased from £7.40 to £8.20. Harj says: “It made sense because customers who came in to only buy a
bag of crisps will be more likely to buy a soft drink because they’re on opposite aisles now.”

Other changes as part of the refit include removing a DVD section and using closed chillers to store soft drinks at the front of the store, which Harj says are more energy efficient. Block freezers at the back of the store have also been replaced with upright alternatives.

“We get a lot of elderly customers, and the block freezers weren’t really convenient for them,” says Harj. “It was quite difficult for them because they had to reach down to get products from the freezers, but they don’t have any of these issues now.”

A £1 bin by the till is also used to encourage further impulse purchases, while the installation of an Easy Coffee machine is also capitalising on the food-to-go trend popular with office workers and tradesmen. A vaping stand installed before the refit also highlights the forward-thinking mindset the Gill brothers have in running their shop.

An aisle of fresh produce is also helping the Gills cater to the healthier tastes of families living in the area, which has been improved by the introduction of Bestway as Select & Save’s wholesale supplier at the end of 2017.

“Many of our customers are concerned about the quality of the ingredients in their evening meals, and the fresh aisle helps cater to that,” Harj says.

Having continued to provide a point of difference among increasing competition, Harj is confident the store will remain popular with residents. “We’re always thinking of ways to provide the best service to our customers which can help us stand out.”

Find my store


This article doesn't have any comments yet, be the first!

Become a member to have your say