Booker’s new Jack’s symbol group will “put the pressure” on rivals as the first UK convenience format built around a major discounter brand.

Tesco launched Jack’s in 2018 as a large-site discounter to help it compete with Aldi and Lidl.

While Jack’s own label was made available to other Booker fascias last month, the newly launched convenience format trial goes further, giving independents Jack’s store branding, tailored layouts and further support.

EXCLUSIVE: Jack’s brand trialled as symbol format for independent retailers

Former Family Shopper retailer Mo Razzaq opened the first trial site on 12 October in Blantyre, Scotland, and further openings are planned in County Durham and Middlesbrough.

Razzaq told betterRetailing: “Since we opened, customers have been buying a lot of the own-label range. I’m really excited, and the store looks amazing.”

Industry reaction and analysis

First discount model

Retail analyst David Gilroy told betterRetailing the launch of Jack’s as a small-format model will be a threat to rival convenience chains outside the Booker network. “It’s going to put pressure on the other players in the market,” he said.

“I’ve always said in the past that if one of the discounters decided to open a small-store format and offer that to independents, they would make big inroads, and that’s exactly what I think will happen with this. Tesco and Booker have probably been mulling this over for a while.”

The right time to launch

As the UK entered its biggest recession on record, members of the public have become more budget-conscious. When the Jack’s format was launched in 2018, former Tesco boss Dave Lewis said it would be “the cheapest in town”.

Describing how the brand will meet post-pandemic buying habits, grocery analyst Bryan Roberts said: “Symbol groups are not renowned for being the cheapest players in the market. Jack’s range is high quality, low cost, and it’s a good proposition for consumers who will be more budget-conscious. It’s Booker’s attempt to definitely be more price-driven.”

One Stop and Londis retailers who gained access to the range had told betterRetailing that customers were frequently commenting on the own-label range’s value.

Tesco scale

When Tesco completed its merger with the wholesaler in 2018, outgoing Booker CEO Charles Wilson said the deal would offer Booker retailers improved choice and scale. Explaining how the Jack’s trial reflects this, Gilroy said: “It’s not about price, really, but is more about reliability and availability. If there is a squeeze on product, especially with Brexit coming, Tesco won’t lose out.

“That will feed out to the retailers and the service they receive. They can put products in front of customers and sales will grow. Tesco is a big machine starting to flex its muscles. The winners will be the retailers who will get all the support unavailable elsewhere.”

Expansion

Before converting to Jack’s, Mo Razzaq’s store was one of 80 Family Shopper sites delivering a similar value message to customers. Commenting on how the Jack’s format would affect the Family Shopper brand, Roberts said: “With the addition of Jack’s, Booker now operates five fascias.

“Arguably that level of complexity isn’t helpful and I don’t think Family Shopper has a decent own-label offering, whereas Jack’s does. If you look at the crystal ball, Booker could persuade some Family Shopper operators to flip over.

“In a similar way to Aldi and Lidl, they’ve concentrated on less affluent parts of the country. If it does become a successful vehicle, there’s no reason why it can’t go nationwide.”

Brand awareness

Prior to the symbol group’s trial and range rollout to One Stop, Budgens and Londis stores, Jack’s only presence was 12 superstore sites in retail parks and the outskirts of town centres. Retail analyst Graham Soult told betterRetailing that although the awareness of the brand isn’t as high as other Tesco brands, independent retailers have one of the best opportunities to help raise awareness of Jack’s.

“The nature of a convenience store is that it’s convenient and as long as your local store is offering a good range, friendly service and well-stocked, you’ll keep using it. A converted Jack’s store in a community won’t look the same as a retail park, and getting that message across will be important,” he said.

“It will by definition be a value experience, but it would have more add-ons than you would get from a traditional Jack’s store. What happens in the independent stores might filter back to the bigger Jack’s stores.”

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