In a regular series over the next two months, Steve and Ramesh will share with us the lessons that convenience retailers can learn from Mike and his team.

This, the first part, focuses on ‘Fresh’, the first F of Mike’s ‘Five F’s’.

On October 26 last year, Mike Greene and his team of convenience store star players took on the challenge of creating a new brand in the channel: My Local It’s fair to say that the birth of the new company was not entirely smooth. The former owner of the 130 stores Morrisons, stripped the stock off the shelves before handing them over Not the perfect arrival.

Mike Greene and his team quickly rose to the challenge, and he is very proud to say that within two days all the stores had been rebranded, and within two weeks Nisa and the teams in each store had got the shelves fully stocked.

My Local StainesFive months on, IAA winner Ramesh Shingadia and I accompanied Mike and his driver, award winning former Co-op manager Luke Ficken on a Thames Valley road trip to visit 4 stores; StainesWindsorReading and Oxford. All very different locations, and each store merchandised to reflect the catchment area they serve.

The story of the day is very much about My Local’s five F’s:, Fresh, Full, Fair Price, Fast and Friendly and the heritage of the convenience channel that Mike has absorbed during his 30+ years working in it. This vast experience is supported by the 15 million consumer interviews that Him! has conducted in its pursuit of understanding shopper behaviour.

Mike says Fresh is first of the five F’s because it is the “most important”. He explained that when a supermarket buys an independently owned convenience store they can double its turnover. The key reason for this is the quality of the fresh offer compared to that available to the independent channel.

A supermarket owned convenience store will account as much as 50% of their sales from fresh produce. My Local is currently on 40% of turnover coming from this category, and Mike believes that this gap can be closed.

He says that meat and fish are the products that drive the most value to convenience store customers. While stores will be expected to offer the top brands at a fair price, shoppers expect the meat and fish offer to look good and with a quality to match the appearance.

“I will happily be a pain in the neck for any supplier that My Local uses to keep to the quality and presentation mantra. If that sounds obsessive, I will happily admit to being obsessive!,” he said.

Mike says that individual pieces of meat need to be better prepared and presented; the majority of top-up shoppers are women, and research shows that they notice the detail more than men. Picking up a couple of packs of meat, Mike said that compared to many shops they were good, but as far as he is concerned they are not good enough to meet the My Local fresh vision.

This obsession with getting fresh right also filters down to the stores, with the training and encouragement of store managers and their teams. Mike gave a great demonstration of how to dramatically improve the display of cauliflowers by removing the outer leafs of one to reveal the hidden quality of the product.

Mike Greene is a passionate convenience retailer who wants to change the channel by closing the quality gap between what the supermarkets buy for their stores and what the wholesalers make available to their customers.

“When your customers make a noise about what you offer them you either take action to correct the issue or you lose your customers,” he says.

“It’s time to tell the wholesale suppliers to the convenience channel that their fresh offer needs revolutionary change to bridge the massive advantage we currently give to the supermarkets.

“We don’t want this selfishly because it will help our supplier’s business when we get them to where we want them to be.”

Next week, Mike Greene explains the Friendly element of his business!