Last Friday I visited my local Aldi for the first time and it was a dispiriting experience. Wide aisles, half empty shelves, a scattering of customers, few staff, and bizarre space planning. This is not the future of retailing. Most of the shoppers there were seeking to buy as much protein as possible for the smallest possible price.
Earlier, I had visited BUYology, which occupied a former DIY shed near the centre of Reading. There were plenty of bargains, including multipacks of Walkers crisps for 35p – all marked out of date. “Zoom in on microscopic prices,” it says.
In the City pages of the FT there is much admiration for Poundland, which with 347 UK stores, almost one for every day of the year, is now planning to open six Dealz shops in Ireland – avoiding the Euroland name that the FT had taken a shine to!
“But,” it warns ” the company is also losing its fixed price promise, and with that goes some of the simplicity that helps to bring the punters in.”
It adds: “The ‘don’t ask the price, it’s a penny’ promise of Marks and Spencer’s penny bazaar is still fondly remembered in the UK”. Is it still fondly remembered? I don’t think so, but you may disagree.
There are two things that local shopkeepers should think about. Firstly, the grass often looks greener on the far off hill. The world of discounters looks good if you are not shopping there. The second is that lots of shoppers do like a bargain. Local retailers need to be careful with their price proposition. While shoppers may accept that you are more expensive, you also need to convince them that you are doing everything possible to keep prices down. This is why you need a 99p or Poundzone offering no matter what sort of business you think you are in.
Challenge yourself to visit your local discounters and look at who is shopping there, what they are spending and what deals you think you should match. It should give you ideas and encouragement.