The Co-op’s interest and investment in independent retailing will increase what customers expect when they set foot in convenience stores.
This means we have to view our stores differently too.
We will be given access to the same margins, lines, own brand produce, support and technology that was previously the preserve of only the biggest brands in grocery retail.
I’m excited not just as a retailer, but as a customer as well. I do as much of my grocery shopping in my own store as possible in order to understand what other customers may be looking for and not finding. Usually, when I do find myself walking the aisles elsewhere, it is to buy chilled goods (especially the Co-op’s butter chicken pizza).
The new support on offer means I will be able to fulfil more of my needs in store and this will translate to fulfilling more of my customers' needs as well.
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However, to really make the most of this opportunity, I need to change how I approach retail. This will involve pivoting our businesses to being fresh-led rather than ambient.
To do this it’s not just ranging that needs to be reassessed, it’s deliveries, marketing, logistics, layouts, staffing and customer service as well. It’s all about the execution. We need to be willing to make large store investments to make this happen.
We’d previously held off on investment in our store while the deal was going through, but now is the right time. Refrigeration will be a huge part of this. While adding more metres of chiller space is a long-established trend in convenience, this will be the first time for many shops that they achieve parity with their local multiple-owned c-store in terms of chilled space.
One of the questions I’m always asked when I discuss the change is: “Aren’t you concerned about ranging the same lines as the Co-op down the road?” My answer is that even if the products are the same (and most stores now range similar products anyway), I can promise you that the service in my store will be better, so which one would you pick?
Read more by Retail Express Magnificent Seven columnist Harj Dhasee