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The Financial Times has covered the success of the Eurocash wholesale operation in Poland, a country where independent shops still retain a remarkable 40 per cent share of the grocery market.
“Shopping is not entertainment. Buying yoghurt and iPods in a single shop is not convenient for customers. You need quality shopping close to home,” Luis Amaral, the Portuguese owner of the wholesaler, tells the newspaper. It is clear from this that Polish shoppers are not UK shoppers, who regularly put clothes and DVDs into the same trolley as their raw poultry.
However, one reason why Polish local shops do well is said to be the poor state of roads in Poland, which makes travelling to a supermarket difficult. This impact may transfer to the UK as the price of petrol soars and councils cut road maintenance budgets.
Another is that 25 per cent of Poles shop daily and find it easier to go to a neighbourhood shop. The multiples have opened neighbourhood shops but the independents compete on service. “We notice our clients and they tend to do most of their shopping with us,” Anna Rowena, owner of a local shop in Warsaw, tells the FT. Again, this is a trend towards top up shopping that is helping local shops in the UK.
Finally, Eurocash invests in the quality of the products it supplies and there has been a big improvement in the quality of the people who go into local retailing. Today’s shopkeepers are “much more professional,” says Mr Amaral. The trend in the UK is similar, with the leading wholesalers investing heavily in supporting local traders, who are more professional that the previous generation.
Even in Poland the independent sector is under pressure, with lots of shop closures. However, Mr Amaral is confident that local stores can maintain a market share in the high 30s. An ambition worth importing from Poland for the UK independent channel!
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