Retail innovation – Academy in Action

In the last part of the 12-week programme, the IAA and Graeme Collins from category partner NFRN help Cambridge retailer Abdul Arain take retail innovation in his shop to the next level.

In the last part of the 12-week programme, the IAA and Graeme Collins from category partner NFRN help Cambridge retailer Abdul Arain take retail innovation in his shop to the next level.

Located on a busy street near Cambridge station, Al-Amin Stores is a Tardis of hard-to-find world food ingredients. A central part of Abdul’s offer is hot and cold food to go, which includes traditional falafel, onion bhajis and curries.

The shop is already a good example of retail innovation. It’s food-to-go operation is a clear point of difference, the store has a clear vision of ethical, authentic foods and its ranging has embraced food trends such as vegan and gluten-free. Abdul has also developed an own-label range just for his store, to help it stand out.

But retail innovation is about making your store a brand, which is unique and loved by customers. To do this, you need to have a clear vision for your shop and a plan to make your customers see it, too. How can the IAA help Abdul improve?

Why I take part

It’s been really helpful to have the NFRN and IAA visit my shop. I’ve got some great ideas from the visit, such as marketing our ethics more clearly in store and using social media more effectively. This visit has helped me start to think how I can do this in a meaningful way, and I am looking forward to the challenge.

Abdul’s challenge: Recognising the opportunity

Abdul has a genuine passion for food and cooking, and a strong identity that he communicates well to his shoppers, but struggles to get this across to passers-by. How can he communicate his vision to reach a wider audience?

Graeme says: “It’s clear Abdul is very knowledgeable about his products, but if shoppers don’t talk to him, they might struggle to know what to do with all the ingredients. He should promote his products throughout the store, use TV screens to show videos of them and empower his staff to use social media to react quickly to the latest food trends.”

Action Create and begin executing a social media plan that prioritises marketing the vision of the store.


Abdul’s challenge: Understanding the potential gains

For a shop that invests so much in food to go, the opportunity of home delivery cannot be ignored. Abdul is concerned about the margin that some delivery service apps cost though. How can he proceed?

Graeme says: “Delivery services can help retailers reach more customers while minimising the risk. You can always add on the extra margin to your prices as shoppers are usually happy to pay extra for the convenience. Trial environmentally-friendly delivery services so they tie in with the ethics of the shop and measure the results.”

Action Investigate and test a delivery service app with customers and analyse the results.


Abdul’s challenge: Setting targets and hit them

Despite food to go being a unique part of his offer, the section is hidden at the back of the store. Abdul has big plans to renovate his store and create a seating area, which he says could increase sales by up to 13%.

Graeme says: “This is a major project that Abdul is looking into and it could pay off massively. It might not start anytime soon, but Abdul still needs to begin working on the marketing around the relaunch and tell his customers about the changes. Again, social media can help and be a great way for customers to give feedback and help Abdul set realistic targets.”

Action Begin collecting actionable feedback from customers about the store relaunch to create measurable and achievable targets.

Partner Advice

Graeme Collins, Head of Business Development, NFRN

It’s been fascinating to visit a shop where the whole set-up is a brilliant example of independent retailing. The main job is for us to work closely with Abdul to help him take the next steps and market it in a more effective way.


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