Last month my wife and I moved to Melksham in Wiltshire and during the past couple of weeks have been working out which shops to use. The town has 2 of the big 4 supermarket chains represented as well as a Waitrose store. And as a positioning statement of the catchment population there is both an Aldi and a Lidl. Interesting then to see how some of the independent stores set out their stall.

So far we have used the Baker, Butcher, and Greengrocer. There are two butchers, one attracted us and the other didn’t (they offered self made pies etc as well as fresh meat). The one we chose was clean and uncluttered with two modern serve over chilled display counters. The meat on display is well mechanised and on each visit to the store the stock looks fresh and well managed. The butcher is happy to talk about the meat he sells and where can sources his supplies locally, from within Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset. Of course what makes the reputation of a butcher is the quality of the meat he sells and he certainly wins there. On the marketing front he is as uncomplicated as his store, the stock is well labelled, there are clear advertising messages on his window and two swing signs showing the day’s promoted product. The real win is that he appears no more expensive than his supermarket competition.

The greengrocer has a rustic feel with wicker shopper baskets and a traditional style of display. The produce is of good quality as one would expect and as with the butcher their prices are similar to the local supermarkets. They also have a significant ‘whole food’ offering from a wide range of nuts to goats and sheep cheese and yoghurt. A couple of reasons we will return again and again is that they have a loyalty card, spend £5 twelve times and get £3 off your next purchase. The other reason is that they are happy to take special orders for products that they don’t stock.

We have only been to the baker once as it seems to have seen better days (Early Day Motion 2661 – MARKET POWER OF SUPERMARKETS)  . Although it seems to have the facilities to bake bread from scratch the loaf we bought was packed in a ‘bake off’ company bag and had the appearance of a “bake off” loaf. Oh dear, may be we were too late for their normal bake, we will have to try again may be.

The message that I take from our shopping experience over the past couple of weeks is that it’s the retailer’s proposition that attracts us into a shop, then it’s the cleanliness, product and layout. The thing that will keep us returning to a particular shop is the staff and how they react to our needs. After that, although price is important it is not the key decider.