Every year the Retail Express workshop brings together suppliers and retailers to discuss the best ways to grow your business.

Mondelez International, Coca-Cola European Partners and betterRetailing.com teamed up with Retail Express and eight independent retailers to look at six areas you can improve in 2018 .

In Part 1 of 2 in our Retail Express workshop coverage, we discuss innovation, seasonal sales and technology. 

5 ways to drive innovation

1: Follow your customers’ in-store journey

Raj Aggarwal, Spar retailer

“We’re bringing in heat mapping to see where ‘cold’ and ‘hot’ areas are according to how people move around the store,” says Spar retailer Raj Aggarwal. Stefan Appleby, head of digital at betterRetailing.com, says: “If you can’t invest in heat mapping, draw the layout of your shop on paper and plot where your shoppers go.”

2: Get behind new products

Amy Burgess, CCEP

“Keep up to date with how much money suppliers are supporting new products with as they’ll be top of consumers’ minds,” says Amy Burgess, Coca-Cola European Partners trade communications manager. “You have to be part of it. Not every new product will work, but if you’re not part of it you will miss out,” says Raj.

3: Personalise your offer

Shaelender Goel, One Stop retailer

“We’re looking at introducing iBeacons, so that when shoppers come in we can offer them deals,” says One Stop retailer Shaelender Goel. “We can see if we can tailor it based on what we know they like buying.” Personalisation is an important part of the future, adds Amy.

4: Look out for innovative ideas

Raj will introduce EasyCoffee – a coffee-to-go machine from the EasyJet brand. “It’s a game changer,” he says. “The machine doesn’t cost anything and there’s a 50/50 revenue share. The coffee is great so we will be communicating that to customers.”

5: Adapt your range ahead of legislation

With the soft drinks tax set to enter the market in April, it is important that you stock a balanced range of soft drinks. “It seems there’s a lot of confusion around which products will and won’t be exempt from the soft drinks tax. Around 95% of our brands will be exempt, ” adds Amy.

4 ways to drive seasonal sales

1: Stand out with premium products

Dee Sedani, One Stop

“With lines like shell eggs, the market has been decimated by the multiples,” explains Dee Sedani of One Stop in Sheffield. “Now I’m avoiding competing by going for more premium products, which is working really well. Don’t be scared of stocking £10 eggs, you’ll be surprised how much your shoppers will spend.”

2: Be bold with your displays

Momoe Lowry, Premier 

“I always have a main seasonal display but stock products that shoppers are likely to forget by the counter,” says Premier retailer Momoe Lowry. “This works well for things like ‘thank you’ cards when schools break up for summer.” Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelez International, says displays are essential for creating excitement in store and capturing the attention of your regular shoppers.

3: Use seasons as a footfall driver

Dee Sedani, One Stop

While you can use seasons to stretch your shoppers’ spend, offering deals is a great way to get customers through the door. “Our trade is very good at Christmas because we have promotions, like boxed chocolates at three for £5. It impacts our margin but it brings people in,” says Dee.

4: Keep your displays fresh

Susan Nash, Mondelez

“We concluded that two weeks was the optimal time before you should change your display, afterwards your sales can begin to decline,” says Susan. “This doesn’t mean you have to change your display around entirely, even changing some products can keep it fresh.”

4 new ways you can use technology

1: Expand your services

Amrit Singh, retailer

New services can put your store at the forefront of the industry, says West Midlands retailer Amrit Singh. “I’ve already looked at implementing payments via Bitcoin as there’s so much money and local demand for it and in other cutting-edge developments. “Retailers should consider the merits of new services just as they would with the more traditional ones,” he adds.

2: Get customers talking 

Technology offers more than just efficiency savings, says Nisa retailer Philip Constantine. He explains that new features can be a great way of engaging with customers in store. “Even your till system can be a talking point. I invested in a Clover till system and our customers always comment on how good the customer experience is,” he says.

3: Respond to trends quickly

Philip Constantine, Nisa retailer

Trends can break suddenly and reward the retailers who are first to react. Shop owners can use social media, food websites and trade press to spot trends, and Facebook and in-store advertising to promote them.

Amrit says use your versatility and your speed to outpace the multiples. “You have the ability to jump in a van and put together a promotion in three hours. The store manager of your local Tesco Express can’t do that. Think how many people at Tesco HQ would have to approve a new product before it is introduced in store,” he says.

4: Use tech to tailor offers

Philip says the promotions cycle can be aided by specific offers for different days. “We are already running separate offers on certain days in the week to counteract slower periods, digital shelf labelling would allow us to be much more responsive. It is an intensive approach but it can be effective,” he explains.

Part 2 in our Retail Workshop series covers core ranging, local community and healthier products.