Deansgate Square is a community like no other. It is comprised of four skyscrapers, the tallest of which stands at over 200 metres, filled with luxury apartments housing Manchester’s most affluent residents. It’s a young community and the only convenience store on its doorstep belongs to Mital Morar’s General Stores.
General Stores match convenience retailing with the experience that these shoppers are looking for. Many of the rules of running a shop are turned on their head. For example, where other stores would cram every square foot of space with products and place promotions clearly visible from the entrance, Deansgate General Store devotes around a fifth of the shop floor space to an open area with plants, interesting architecture and a small showcase of artisan products. The result is a calmer environment that gives shoppers the feeling of space and luxury.
“We have a mantra – ‘I only came for milk’ – which says everything about our ethos,” Morar says. “Our customers come in and discover products they can’t get anywhere else and leave with all sorts that they didn’t expect.”
Of course, Deansgate Square is matched effectively to a very specific community. A 400sq ft symbol store in a village is hardly likely to be able to devote a large section of the shop floor to sustainable grocery dispensers or natural wine. But there are lessons in Morar’s approach that any owner of any sized store can learn. The journey that Morar and his team are on in understanding their customers and becoming a destination – becoming famous for something – is a principle that any retailer can take from.
“The fact is that the delivery companies, such as Uber, Deliveroo, Weezy and Gorillas, are not going anywhere. They are well-funded and there’s nothing we can do about it. What we need to do is make sure that when a customer comes into our four walls, we deliver a space that people want to spend time in. They come in for milk and walk out with more,” Morar explains.