Mullaco Supermarket has been servicing Asian communities in Yorkshire since 1981, but changing consumer habits have meant the store has had to improve its online presence. Chris Dillon finds out how

Mullaco Supermarket is a large independent retailer that is famous for providing authentic, traditional Asian cuisine in Yorkshire, but as its customers change, so too must the way it services them. 

mullaco-supermarket-stat1.png The 10,000sq ft store opened in 1981 and was one of the first in the area to provide fresh fruit and vegetables alongside halal meat. 

Today, more than 90% of its customers are Asian, with shoppers travelling from all over the country ahead of key seasonal periods like Ramadan to make the most of its range and deals. By becoming experts in its field and providing a large range, the store draws an average basket spend of £24, but the team discovered it was missing out on smaller shopping trips. 

“We’ve just brought in 300 lines of core convenience products so we are not losing out on that market,” says owner Ahmed Mulla.

 “Our aim is to be a one-stop shop for customers of all backgrounds, economic status and demographics. 

“We are big enough to be a supermarket, but small enough to offer a personal service.” 

This investment was decided after discovering that many customers were coming to them for ethnic foods, but then visiting Asda for core products. “We brought in these lines over three weeks, mainly in household and toiletries, and from now on we’ll be analysing sales to tailor the range,” he says.

Our aim is to be a one-stop shop for customers of all backgrounds, economic status and demographics

A big focus for change within the business is how it services its existing customers online and uses social media to reach new ones. 

“We now educate people on our website. As our unique selling point is Asian food, we’ve been posting recipes and advice on spices. We want to tell food stories,” he explains. The website also features an ‘Indian Vegetable Dictionary’ to help shoppers identify the ingredients that they need. 

This has played an important role in explaining to customers that buy online who they are and why they should be trusted. “Most of the population is now online or on their phones, so it’s
essential to engage with people this way,” he explains. 

In a bid to capture the attention of foodies outside the Asian community, the business has embraced Instagram to show off its range. 

“We were relying on Facebook before, but now we’re posting recipes and dishes that we’ve cooked at home using products from the store,” Ahmed says.

“We’ve engaged with foodies in the area and food bloggers, which has helped us to achieve a greater presence online.” The store has also used targeted Facebook advertising to ship products that weren’t selling before. 

But the nature of social media is that the work is never truly complete. “We want to start pushing our store on a daily basis across all social media, so we want to find different ways of creating daily posts,” he says. 

“We don’t just want it to be all about products, but partnering with other local businesses and charities.” 

Ahmed has also worked with a marketing agency to ensure that the shop’s graphics are visually consistent across the business’s online platforms and store, which has given the company
a much more professional look at every point that customers come into contact with it. 

“I’ve been comparing my store against the competition with the Independent Achievers Academy (IAA) for years and we’ve started doing a lot more online as a result. 

“We’ve also tied promotions into events like Ramadan and upped our online delivery,” he says. 

“There’s little help out there for ethnic retailers and I feel the IAA really supports us. I always tell people to get involved,” he says. 

Engaging customers digitally can feel like a daunting task for retailers, but for Ahmed’s business, it has resulted in more customers, more products being sold and more engagement. 

“I know a lot of people, especially those in the ethnic convenience sector, who are scared of social media, but it’s a great tool for informing people about your store. Retailers must go for it,”
he says. 

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