At the recent Local Shop Summit key note speaker, Mark Palmer challenged retailers to think about what the extreme version of the stores would look like.
He said Pret A Manger had done just that and had totally transformed their coffee offer. For me his comment was one of the most significant messages of the day.
A week later, my wife and I had short holiday in Cork in the South of Ireland. I knew from a visit to Dublin in 2006 that food to go is a big part of the convenience offer, particularly in the big cities.
This trip has not disappointed: Spar, Costcutter, Centra and other convenience chains all featured food to go and deli counters.
In the centre of the city, we came across Herlihy’s Centra, a small store that would be a full range convenience store in the UK market. They also have a Dealz outlet as near neighbours – a store that I would describe as “Wilkinsons on steroids” with a significant range of convenience lines at very low prices.
Six months ago, the Centra store underwent a full remodelling. Supervisor Raj Kodali said it transformed from a dull convenience store to one that has been designed to meet the needs of the city centre customers.
Traditional convenience range has been squeezed and along with the store check-out takes half the floor space.
The other half of the sales space is devoted to Food for Now. There is a kitchen servery where the well-trained employees make up ‘andwiches to order at €3 each.
The coffee on offer is branded Frank and Honest and the Food for Now offer also includes self-serve salad, soup, hot snacking, individual cakes, fruit and more. At the front of the store there is seating for 20.
Raj Kodali, the store supervisor, said the customer base is a mix of students, shoppers and people who work in the city centre. The design of the store is driven by the people that it serves. He added that it is also the only shop in the city centre to stay open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
They have clearly got the formula spot on – every time my wife and I walked past the store ,it was busy. But Mr Kodali said that while it is right for today’s customers, their needs are always changing and the store will continue to adapt and meet what the customer of tomorrow wants.
Read more about Steve Denham’s visits to other convenience stores in his Coventry Retail Study Tour.