SLR breaks new ground by becoming the first trade magazine on earth to buy and run its very own convenience store. Antony Begley explains why SLR will now practice what it preaches.
by Antony Begley
It all began several years ago as a madcap idea: why don’t we buy a store so that we have the perfect place to try new concepts, test out ideas and figure out if the advice that’s being offered by the major manufacturers actually stacks up in a real retail environment? Well, after one or two false starts and months of negotiations, SLR has finally gone and done it: we’ve bought our own store!
The 1,200sq ft store in Falkirk is essentially a typical convenience store. It has been operated under different names for decades and sits near the local high school and the local hospital.
From now on however, the store will be known as Woodlands Local, rooting the business firmly in the Woodlands community that it serves. The store is being operated by 55 North Retail, a division of the same company that owns SLR. The acquisition of the business was completed just weeks ago.
Why would we want to run our own store? Well, what better way to understand the challenges that retailers face than by becoming retailers ourselves?
Buying a store is a natural extension of our long term policy of in-store activity and project work. It has never been our style to simply advise retailers on what best practice is, or what the latest concepts are.
No, our style – now widely copied – was to implement that best practice and execute those new concepts in real, live trading environments with real, live Scottish retailers. That way we could test the concepts out and find out whether they work in reality.
Woodlands Local is simply the ultimate extension of that idea: we now have complete control over a test environment that we own.
Learning from the best
Joining us in this truly ground-breaking project are a number of key partners, covering the major convenience categories. We will lean on them for advice, support and guidance in the categories that are most important to all local retailers.
Our partners are shown on the right and over the coming months, SLR will work with them to implement best practice in all areas of local retailing in the Woodlands Local store.
We will then share this best practice, along with our learnings in a special section within every issue of SLR magazine.
This section will outline everything we are doing in the store and will illustrate exactly which amendments and improvements we make as we go along.
There will be highs, of that we are sure. And there will be lows, and of that we’re equally sure, but it promises to be a fantastic and very unique adventure for a trade magazine.
Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: owning and running Woodlands Local will give SLR better insight into the realities of local retailing than any other trade title in the world. It is our intention to use that insight to deliver a better product to you, our readers. That will mean better advice, better support and better information.
“Not to put too fine a point on it, I believe that this is the best initiative shown by a trade publication for years,” says Müller-Wiseman Dairies Sales & Marketing Director Sandy Wilkie, a partner in the project.
He added: “There is so much for so many to learn from this initiative and we at Müller-Wiseman Dairies are thoroughly looking forward to playing a very active part in it ourselves.”
In line with our ethos of sharing best practice, we will maintain an ‘open house’ policy for all Scottish local retailers. If you want to come along and see the store, find out what we’re doing and see if there’s anything that you can copy or use in your own store, then our door will always be open.
And if you do make the effort to come along , don’t be surprised if you get squeezed for your own thoughts on what we could do to improve Woodlands Local! We can all learn from one another and the day that we stop learning is the day that we stop moving forward.
2013 has the potential to be a great year for local retail in Scotland – let’s make it happen together.