Last week, Londis revealed the next step in its evolution. Brand director Martin Swadling and Londis Woodhouse Street’s Peter Bhadal gave RN’s Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski a tour of the changes in practice. 

It is not often that a retailer gets to work directly with a symbol boss when refitting their store.

Yet, Londis Woodhouse Street has become the epicentre for a project to get the entire Londis estate ready for a future that is arriving almost as soon as it is predicted. 

The family-run store in Leeds has served its community since 1989, gradually expanding to its current 1,900sq ft size. With good in-store standards in place already, discussions on how to take the business to the next level between Londis brand director Martin Swadling and Peter Bhadal, who now runs the store, began two years ago. 

Mr Swadling sees the changes made in the store in recent months as part of an essential transition that convenience stores everywhere need to make: “The world is changing – news, mags, tobacco, lottery… all those traditional footfall drivers are declining. So, how do you future-proof these businesses?” 

Firstly, fast-growing categories are being put centre stage. An improved hot food, coffee-to-go and sweet snacks range is now brought together. “We’ve created this mechanic, The Good Taste Food Co. It can frame coffee and food to go in any size store,” says Mr Swadling, who adds that – like much of what is on show in Peter’s store – the branding is now available to all Londis stores.  

Another innovation is adapting to shopper missions throughout the day. Displays on wheels allow the store to prominently display baked goods during the morning rush and replace the fixture with sandwiches and other meal-deal items later in the day.

Referencing the influence of other markets on this idea, Mr Swadling says: “It is our little version of Japan.” 

The store is also allocating bays to once-niche categories including free-from and protein. “They might not have a full bay, they might have a couple of shelves, but every Londis will now have some kind of protein offer. And whatever they stock, we are going to try and bring it out with point of sale,” says Mr Swadling.

American confectionery is another area which is now a must-stock for most stores, in Mr Swadling’s mind: “Customers want to try what they see people eating on Netflix.”

Other nods to the future include the removal of the store’s tobacco gantry in favour of vaping products and backlit premium spirits, craft beers and a greater focus on chilled meals. 

Elsewhere, Peter and Mr Swadling have worked on showcasing what they see as the already-strong attributes of Londis. New PoS tells customers that all the Booker-sourced fruit and vegetables in the store now come straight from the growers – a move away from the traditional symbol group model of using specialist wholesalers to provide produce. 

We now negotiate straight with the grower – so we know which farm, which field, it comes from. It is important for customers to know that

Londis is also looking to better communicate its pricing and promotions after HIM figures scored the group low on customer perception of value. 

“Our point of sale was cluttered: it had lots of pictures, the Londis logo and you couldn’t see the price,” says Mr Swadling. “We’ve taken it right back with very simple but effective black-on-yellow price messages. On Pringles, for example, all you need to know is they are £1.24 and they are half price.”

So, has it all been worthwhile? “It is easier to knock down and rebuild a store, but this is an established business. The challenge here was to make an already-successful business more sales and more profit by adapting their offer,” Mr Swadling says. 

With fresh sales up 50% and overall turnover up 25%, both symbol boss and retailer are satisfied. As Peter Bhadal says: “It has given us an energy boost and confidence – and the results speak for themselves.”  

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