Retailers give thumbs up on sgf study tour

Seeing how other retailers run their stores is vital for keepig up with the latest trends and innovations in local retailing – which is why SLR joined the SGF’s autumn study tour of the Glasgow area.

by Karen Peattie

With some 30 retailers and suppliers scheduled to visit eight stores in six hours, the logistics were never going to be easy. But the SGF’s autumn study tour was a resounding success, combining a mix of stores and groups/fascias to make it a worthwhile day out for all.

First stop-off was Spar’s award-winning store in Norby Road, Broomhill, a store SLR knows well having followed its progress over the years. A warm welcome from store manager Paul Kenyon and his team – plus some tasty cakes and pancakes – got the day off on a positive footing.

The retailers in the group were particularly impressed with the fresh offer in the store, asking Paul lots of questions. Like many Spar retailers, Paul’s heavy promotion of £1 mixed fruit bags has struck a chord with customers, as has the introduction of fresh meat from a local butcher.

An interesting concept in this 2,900sqft store, too, is the recently installed homemade pizza bar, located next to the in-store bakery. All staff on duty happily chatted to the visitors with no questions out of bounds – an absolutely terrific start to our day.

Umbrellas to the ready, the group got back on the bus to head for The Co-op’s store in Bearsden. Manager Gayle Honeyman couldn’t have been more welcoming – surely a rising star in the making? Completely different to Spar Broomhill, this 2,500sqft nonetheless had the emphasis very much on fresh produce.

Trading for less than a year, this store – opposite Bearsden Station – still has a long way to go, as The Co-operative’s regional operations manager, Nic MacLennan, admitted. “It’s a store with great potential in a great location but it needs fine-tuning,” he said. “We’ve got a great manager in Gayle and the local people are supporting us so it would be great for everyone to come back in six months’ time to see how we’ve progressed.”

Next on the itinerary was Clydebank Co-op in Faifley Road, Clydebank. Again, a completely different offer and shopping experience but clearly tailored to suit its neighbourhood. Heavy on grocery and value brands, the store provides a much-needed service to local people and the staff are very much at the heart of its success with manager Lorraine McKellar cracking the whip.

Robert Sider, SGF President and Chief Executive of Clydebank Co-op, said: “It’s a busy store and our goal here is to give our customers what they want – value for money. It’s not as pretty a store as some we’re visiting today but we know what our customers want and that’s friendly service and good offers.”
Filling up on sandwiches and sausage rolls, the group headed for another Spar, this time SLR Retailer of the Year Saleem Sadiq’s huge store in Renfrew. A serial award-winner, Saleem was on hand to show us around.

Again, fresh and chilled attracted considerable interest as did the food to go operation, which features a Chicken Cottage franchise and recently launched customer coffee club. “I’m so proud of the store and it’s a pleasure to show people round, even if they are competitors,” said Saleem. “We should all share ideas – surely that’s going to lead to a more successful convenience sector?”

After a quick lunch of freshly made chicken, it was on to KeyStore Broadloan, Paisley. A JW Filshill company-owned store, ebullient manager David Mitchell was waiting to show us round and answer questions. Again, nothing was taboo and the group took particular interest in David’s confectionery and alcohol sections.

This 1,600sqft outlet is frequently used as a test store by Filshill. “We’ve got the new £1 Zone now and that’s creating quite a bit of interest,” said David. “You have to respond to the market so when the mults are pushing the £1 price point your customers then expect to find something similar.”

Next up was the gleaming Nisa Extra in Gorbals. Another new store, it has been trading for around a year and at 4,000sqft, it’s a beast. Energy-efficiency is very much at the fore and shuttered chillers all over the store created considerable discussion and mixed opinions. Store co-ordinator Syeda Ali (Sam) Mohammed said: “The chillers are reducing energy costs but they also allow us to display product more effectively.”

Back on the bus to Mount Florida in the shadows of the hallowed Hampden Park where Amir Iqbal’s KeyStore was next on the itinerary. Deceptive in size – it’s actually 1,500sqft but looks much smaller from the outside – this store saw business surge on the Saturday of the Scotland v Serbia game.

“It’s a tough market,” said Amir. “We’re always open to new ideas and work hard but the opening of the Tesco Express down the road has had an impact. For us, it’s all about offering fantastic customer service.”

Last stop was Scotmid at West Craigs, Hamilton. An ex-Botterills outlet where many of the staff have being working since Botterills opened the store in the late 90s. Store manager Angela Crossar clearly runs a tight but happy ship where the emphasis is on fresh, food to go, and chilled beers and wines. There’s also Costa coffee which, says Angela, is popular with the regulars.

So, back on the bus and the verdict? Jamie Buchanan, CJ Lang’s company stores director, said: “It’s been a great day. Seeing how others do things is vital – sometimes you know they’re doing it better than you but sometimes you know that certain things just won’t work in your own business. That’s what this type of day is all about.”

Edinburgh’s Dennis Williams of Broadway Convenience Store, another SLR Retailer of the Year, headed home with a notebook full of ideas. “Hats off to the stores for being so open and upfront with us,” he said. “I think what’s struck me most today is the pride everyone takes in their business – it makes me proud to be part of our industry when you see it.

“There’s a lot I’m taking away from today – some of it, I know, wouldn’t work in a community store like ours but it still helps to see it first hand. I think it’s good for suppliers to spend time with retailers too.”

Meanwhile, Scotmid’s Kevin Plant, recently appointed as operations director (food), described the day as “inspiring”. He said: “As a newcomer to the market in Scotland, I’ve had an amazing day meeting retailers I might not meet under normal circumstances and visiting stores I was unfamiliar with. It’s really important to expose yourself to what others are doing in your sector.”

Alan McCaffer, zone sales manager for PepsiCo UK, described the study tour as “excellent” while AG Barr’s sales development manager, Stevie Thomson, added: “Something like this helps you understand that retailers have different needs dependent on their store, its location and the disciplines of their retail group.”

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