The latest evolution of our strategy at Woodlands Local is to give our customers great reasons to visit us regularly by providing them with services and products they can’t get anywhere else.
by Antony Begley
After more than a year and a half running our store in Falkirk, there have been many hard lessons learned – but one of the most important of all is that we have to develop as a business because earning a living from simply selling a typical core impulse range is not going to be a sustainable long term strategy.
For one thing, legislation is against us – and it’s only going to get worse and harder. Every single product that a convenience store would class as ‘core’ to its offering is under pressure from legislation, and if it isn’t it, it will be soon.
Tobacco, alcohol and soft drinks have all been hammered; high sugar lines (like confectionery) and high fat products (like crisps and cakes) are a certainty to be in line for more legislation soon.
Over and above that, the market has become so value-obsessed that promotions and deals are the only things that sell for most retailers. We’ve allowed price to become the only thing that matters and we are now finding ourselves having to compete with the supermarkets and the discounters on price! There’s only going to be one winner in that battle.
So where does that leave us?
The solution: USPs
Well, it leaves us having to think carefully about how we shift the battleground away from price alone. In short, we believe that at Woodlands Local we need to begin planning between three to five years ahead.
Our solution to this challenge is neither original nor particularly clever, but we do believe it will work: USPs.
The Unique Selling Point is a strong argument; carefully chosen USPs put us in a position of strength because they shift the battleground to areas where the mults and discounters are not able to compete with us.
But what does that actually mean in store? What does that actually look like in Woodlands Local?
In a nutshell, it means exclusive ranges.
The new range of 25 Scottish craft beers that we’ve just added is a fine example that ticks so many boxes for us. This range, bought through Filshill’s new Craft Beer Clan of Scotland distribution division, means we can offer more than two dozen beers that our customers won’t find anywhere else in Falkirk. Lidl doesn’t have them; Asda doesn’t have them; no other c-store has them. It is a genuine USP.
Sure, it’s not a high volume category – but it is a high margin category and it could be a decent footfall driver. The limited range we stocked previously already brought shoppers into the store. We know many customers that come to the shop purely because we had a range of sensibly priced good quality beers. And while they’re here they’ll pick up a pizza or a tube of Pringles, a box of choccies or a bottle of wine.
That principal is recreated in lots of categories around the store and the aim is to attract the many affluent locals who rarely visit the store, thinking all we sell is crisps, sweets and cigarettes. Our tailored three weekly leaflets now shout about the premium ranges we have and we are starting to see new faces.
As well as the craft beer ranges, we’ve also added a very extensive range of fresh fruit and vegetables, a big selection of premium wines (£10-£20) and a couple of linear metres of chilled deli food (pates, smoked salmon, olives, hummus, salamis, etc).
And all of this has been achieved without alienating our existing shopper base who still want to buy crisps, chocolate, soft drinks and cigarettes.
The same approach will guide what we do in future as we merge this strategy with our other focus of achieving a true mission-shopping store layout. Fresh meats will be added, our range of sparkling wines is being extended (to include Champagne for the first time) and our hot food offering is being hugely improved.
It may be a risky strategy but it’s one we think will work for us.