Symbol of success

Inside convenience store

The advance of the multiples into symbol territory continues, but there is still growth in the sector. The ultimate winners are shoppers who see better quality and more competition on the high street. So what can symbols do to capture that market, and persuade retailers to join their group?

by Émer O’Toole

There are over 15,000 shops trading under symbol branding in the UK, according to the new Local Shop Report. In Scotland, sales in symbol stores continue to outperform unaffiliated stores. SLR’s guide to joining a symbol store in 2017 examines the main category strengths of groups, and compares year on year performance.

The ‘symbol’ groups are predominantly groups of independent retailers trading under a common customer facing brand – familiar symbol group brands include Spar, Londis, Nisa Local, Premier and Best-One. In the UK, independent retailers (non-affiliated and symbol) continue to make the biggest contribution to the overall sales of the sector, in addition to having the highest number of stores by a significant margin.

By 2020 IGD predicts that the convenience market will be worth a staggering £44.1bn – that’s a growth of 17%. While this is a prediction, there’s no doubting the growth of the sector over the last five years: between 2010-15 the value of convenience grew 27.4% and is currently worth £37.7bn. Is it any wonder more retailers are looking at how they can grow their business?

For several years symbol stores including those run under the fascias noted above, and also others such as Costcutter, Day-Today, and Keystore, have formed one of UK’s food and drink retail success stories. However, the retail environment is always changing. The supermarket giants – especially Tesco and Sainsbury’s in the last few years in Scotland’s major cities and towns – are moving into the c-store retailing space with a vengeance.

For retailers who are currently not part of a symbol group, there are huge advantages to getting affiliated. Likewise, for retailers who are currently with one group, there has never been a better time to shop around. The most recent IGD figures show that there are 15,423 symbol stores in the UK in 2015, up 1.6% on the previous year, while unaffiliated stores are down 0.7% to 18,507. While the discounters grow market share and supermarkets expand into the convenience space, independent retailers are becoming more reliant on their wholesalers and the symbol offerings they provide.

Why join a symbol group?
  • Wide range of products
  • IT and HR support
  • Regular communication
  • Marketing in trade press
  • Recognised brand above the door
  • Dedicated trade website
  • Buying power and promotional activity

Much work has been done in recent years by the country’s symbol groups to improve their offer, to make it more appealing for both retailers and consumers. Operating a convenience store in this modern world is about embracing new, innovative solutions – from category management, to mission shopping, technological advancements and energy efficiency.

The last couple of years has seen diversification within the sector, with many groups now offering multiple options to retailers depending on their store’s demographic and size. The premium My Costcutter from Costcutter Convenience Stores being one example, while at the other end Booker’s Family Shopper has managed to blur the lines between c-store, discounter and pound shop. The market has also been shaken up by franchises. The launch of One Stop in Scotland has created an option that was never previously available, and so competition intensifies. One Stop has launched nine stores in Scotland over the last year. The Tesco subsidiary has opened company-owned and franchise stores, which gives independent retailers an entirely new concept. With huge buying power and insight into shopper habits, One Stop is set to grow in Scotland.

In the 12 months to April 2015 the convenience market generated £37.7bn in sales in the UK. This represents a year-on-year increase of 5.1%. Convenience is set to be one of the fastest areas of growth in the grocery industry over the next five years and symbol groups would argue that for any retailer to take full advantage of this growth, the support on hand from a symbol group is a must.

This guide to what fascias and franchise operations have to offer is an ideal introduction to what is out there. For retailers looking to join a symbol group, the following pages will provide you with an extensive overview of options from many of the major groups.

With one in every three c-stores being a part of a symbol group, the trend is growing, and 2017 is the ideal time to get affiliated.

Lifestyle Express

Lifestyle Express: run your business your way backed by the best support in the business

Lifestyle Extra store

As we head into a brand new year, the pressure remains for retailers to stay ahead of the game. Whether you’re competing against other independent retailers, symbol stores, the supermarkets or the discounters, it’s vital that you stand out from the competition. At Lifestyle Express we understand this, and this is why we provide our retailers with the very best support, industry expertise and benefits of a national symbol group, while you maintain your independence and run your business your way.

At Lifestyle Express we offer retailers a comprehensive, award-winning retailer package with a proven track record, including bespoke store planning, industry-leading planograms and ongoing advice on range and store merchandising. Our popular, great-value own brand ranges offer excellent margins to retailers as well as offering a strong point of difference. We also offer a range of fantastic money-saving deals on store services, but with no membership fees or hidden costs. And there’s no minimum store size or minimum turnover required, just the potential to grow.

And that’s not all. Lifestyle Express retailers can also benefit from regular Cash Back, as well as being able to buy goods at cash and carry prices. We run regular promotions to help you compete locally which are proven to build business and increase your sales and profits.

Last year we launched two brand new premium store formats: Lifestyle Extra and Lifestyle Value. These contemporary-style stores provide retailers with the perfect format to best reflect their trading location. Earlier this year, we also launched our premium grey fascia to provide a contemporary new look.

With a nationally recognised fascia and branding, Lifestyle Express helps you to compete within the convenience market where we know first impressions really count.

With Lifestyle Express you can benefit from:

30% growth in sales

On average, independent retailers achieve a 30% increase in retail sales after joining Lifestyle Express. We’ve carried out extensive research and identified a comprehensive range of bestselling products. By stocking these, and using our industry-leading planograms, you won’t fail to see a surge in sales.

Essential ongoing support

We have a team of core range advisors who work with retailers to identify op-portunities to boost your sales and profit. By working with our advisors, you’ll know you have a fantastic mix of key products at different price points to suit all your customers’ needs. Retailers also have access to a Retail Development Man-ager who will provide expert advice on how to successfully grow your business.

Earn Cash Back

Lifestyle Express is the only symbol group to reward retailing excellence. We run regular incentives for our retailers, all with the opportunity to earn Cash Back, just for stocking the bestselling products, displaying POS and adopting best retail practice. For retailers, it’s a win-win situation.

Lifestyle Express fast facts
  • Average store size: 800 square feet
  • Average store turnover: £12,000 per week
  • Available fascias: Lifestyle Express, Lifestyle Extra, Lifestyle Value
  • Number of UK stores: 1,640, including more than 300 Scottish stores
  • Cost of joining: there is no cost to join or membership fee
  • Minimum store size/turnover: there is no minimum requirement to join Lifestyle Express.

How to join

To join Lifestyle Express and get your business moving in the right direction, it couldn’t be easier:

  • Either visit your local Landmark Wholesale Member Depot and ask to speak to someone about joining Lifestyle Express and they’ll provide you with all you need to know.
  • Or call John Farrell on 07852 248120 or email
  • Or you can visit our website at where you’ll find everything you need to know. Fill in an enquiry form and someone will be in touch shortly.

The perfect partnership with Costcutter Supermarkets Group

Costcutter store

The retail experts

With more than 2,600 stores and some of the largest buying power in the sector, our scale gives retailers the competitive advantage needed to thrive locally. It means we can drive prices down across all ranges – from tobacco and alcohol, to chilled, fresh and grocery goods. As more retailers join, our buying power goes from strength to strength.

Meeting shoppers needs

Our stores tap in to the needs of today’s shopper with 10,000 lines, including our award winning Independent own brand. Whether customers want to grab a spot of lunch, a fresh coffee, pay a bill, pick up a parcel or fill a basket for tonight’s dinner, our stores are very convenient and offer great value for money.

Amazing brands

Simply Fresh and Costcutter have brand awareness of up to 93% and we know that having our name above the door is a great attraction to shoppers. We offer retail brands that appeal to shoppers no matter the store type, size or location. We’re here to help our retailers succeed and help create exciting and contemporary retail environments with insight and advice on how to merchandise to maximise sales. We make it very easy for retailers to do business with us, with simple, transparent and competitive pricing. We also do not charge any membership fees.

The most digitally enabled group

With two-thirds of adults in the UK owning a smartphone and 90% of 16-24 year-olds having one, a strong social media presence is key to reaching shoppers. We have taken the lead on social media and proximity marketing in the convenience sector, helping our retailers to engage with their customers and drive footfall and sales in their stores.

Leading edge retail technology

We place technology innovation at our retailers’ fingertips, offering state-of-the-art systems that make life easier.

We offer the latest in-store technologies that shoppers demand – like easier payments via Apple Pay, Android pay and Contactless. Our cutting edge Activ Technology systems, including ActivCPoS, ActivOC and the retailer portal ActivHUB, have been developed to make running the store a whole lot easier. Hassle free ordering and our ActivMOBILE app allows access to all of this information on the go.

Keeping you independent

We actively help retailers to run their stores their way, and protect their independence. Our retailers get the power of our brands and group strength, but run their stores the way they want to, which is the best of both worlds.

To find out more reasons why you should join Costcutter Supermarkets Group call us on 01904 488663 or visit


Londis for flexibility

Londis store

With options to suit every prospective partner, and a UK-wide support network, the familiar high-street name is an excellent choice for both experienced store owners and those new to the sector.

Londis has over 1,900 members across the UK and is part of Booker Group, the UK’s leading food and drink wholesaler. Londis works in partnership with its independent retailers to provide local communities with all they need from a convenience store.

As well as the strength of a well-established nationally recognised brand, Londis supports retailers with better pricing, award-winning own label ranges, fantastic value promotions, a market-leading supply chain and bespoke store development to suit their local market and to help them succeed in today’s competitive convenience market.

The benefits of the Londis offer include:

  • FREE Membership
  • FREE Marketing Support with FREE leaflets and Point of Sale
  • Competitive Wholesale Prices
  • Great value promotions every 4 weeks
  • Award-winning Fresh range with over 1,250 lines
  • Award-winning own brand ranges Euro Shopper, Happy Shopper and Farm Fresh
  • A best in class online web ordering system (Londis Webshop).
  • Spend & Save discount scheme; earn up to 4% discount
  • Support from our dedicated Store Development and Retail Development teams
  • Tri Temperature fleet delivering all your ambient, fresh and frozen needs on one delivery
  • Free Membership of the ACS

Londis is a flexible symbol partner that’s simple to do business with. It is a fully delivered service solution and support package to suit progressive independent retailers with stores over 500sq ft. The strength of being part of the Booker Group means that we can offer you the best range of products at the best possible prices and we aim to ensure this by price checking the top-selling 300 lines on a weekly basis.

At Londis we are dedicated to helping our retailers Make More and Save More Money, and in 2016 have helped our retailers Make and Save over £21k. Combine this with the quality of our store development, smart planning, local knowledge, range optimisation and expert merchandising and we believe we can help any independent retailer improve their cash profit. We continue to focus on delivering Better Choice, Price and Service for our Independent Retail Partners and supporting them to grow their business locally.


Make a difference with Nisa

Nisa store

As one of the most recognised brands on the high street, Nisa offers retailers a fresh outlook and a proven brand, that sits well in the community and attracts customers from the very first trading day.

Nisa Retail is unique in the convenience sector as it is a mutual style company which means it is owned by its independent retail members. Retailers have the option to operate under four symbol fascias: Nisa Local, Nisa Extra, Loco and dual branded whereby a member can maintain their true local identity whilst also benefiting from the strength of the Nisa brand. Alternatively, a retailer can also choose to trade under their own fascia.

Nisa provides a complete retail support package which comprises a strong retail focussed team, an enhanced category management system, a bespoke staff training facility under the Retail Academy banner, and a comprehensive marketing package incorporating bespoke leaflets, point of sale material and national advertising. All of this is in addition to the award-winning supply chain, a strong own label range and over 13,000 SKUs.

Nisa’s key focus for the year has been on customer relationships and driving brand standards to be synonymous with customer service and consumer offering. Customer relationships doesn’t just refer to the service standards provided, which of course are extremely important, but is also about delivering a proposition the customer can relate to.

Nisa knows that community involvement is key, and our members are able to support their local area through Nisa’s Making A Difference Locally charity, which in 2016 donated over £1m to charities and good causes throughout the UK.

Within the last year, Nisa has developed its Store of the Future 2 store format, which has seen retailers on average achieve double digit uplift in sales following conversion. This looks at different store formats, customer demographics and shopping missions to ensure the right one is implemented in each location. The analysis behind the development of the new store formats was based on careful consumer research examining shopper missions by location and demographics.

Nisa’s flexible model provides its retailers with an unbeatable breadth of range, with a 98% availability rate, to ensure they can provide a single destination shop for all their customers’ needs. This is supported by Nisa’s award winning own label range, Heritage, which provides retailers with over 800 SKUs which have been reformulated and repackaged to ensure they offer great quality products at affordable prices.

Through Nisa membership, retailers can also source local products and have them invoiced centrally, creating a simpler and more time efficient process. All orders are placed directly with the individual suppliers, deliveries are made direct to store, but the invoicing and administration is managed centrally taking the hassle and complexity away from the retailer.

This is all delivered by Nisa’s industry leading supply chain which retailers can trust with an impressive 99.91% of deliveries made on the day and 95% successfully made on time. In addition to this, Nisa provides retailers with a comprehensive marketing package incorporating industry first bespoke leaflets, allowing members to personalise the leaflets to include local offers, local events and community news, as well as a personalised Nisa FM which provides retailers with a strong radio network for their store.

Perhaps most importantly, Nisa has a mutual model, which is unique to the sector. Nisa is owned by its members and as such, in addition to all of the elements mentioned above, retailers also earn rebates and can enjoy surplus profit share and dividend payments which further add to Nisa’s competitiveness and strengthens its position as the partner of choice.


Something for everyone

Premier store

Premier and Family Shopper gives prospective retailers the opportunity to find the right blend for their business.

Premier and Family Shopper are operated by Booker Group, the UK’s leading food & drink wholesaler, who have over 200 Booker and Makro branches throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Premier is the UK’s number one symbol group with over 3,300 stores nationwide. The group is committed to delivering more profits for retailers and a better shopping experience for consumers. Premier has delivered double digit growth for thirteen consecutive years.

Premier has advertised on TV for the past two years. This is a commitment to advertise Premier everyday which means over 200 million views of the advert nationally. The TV advert will include Premier’s famous Mega Deal promotions which have increased to four each promotional period. As well as this, retailers also benefit from a full promotional programme covering all categories of fresh, frozen, grocery and impulse to ensure great value for shoppers to drive footfall into stores. This market leading promotional package, along with own-label and price-mark-packs, really drives the value message to help retailers grow their business.

Family Shopper is a discount format for independent retailers that brings together the strength of symbol retailing with the great value available in the discount channel. It has been specifically developed to help independent retailers capture the growing sales and profits from the discount sector. A key feature of Family Shopper is long term deals, which offer the consumer, fantastic value every day.

The unique discount format provides retailers with everything that shoppers would expect, including chilled, alcohol, grocery and tobacco along with services such as Lotto and Paypoint. This is combined with the best of the discounters covering a fantastic range of £1 non-food items such as stationery, kitchen utensils and party accessories, with a broad seasonal offering and a frozen section. Providing comprehensive disciplines, all Family Shopper stores offer a simplified range that removes duplication. Also merchandising in full trays makes the format easy to operate while minimising back stock and easing cash flow.

Both Premier and Family Shopper retailers can take advantage of delivery at cash & carry prices, ordering on line and having the ease of shopping at branches. This helps to maintain the exceptional availability which in turn offers better customer service. Both brands do not operate any membership or joining fees and installs the fascia and imagery free of charge. A wide range of services such as recycling, energy savings, free Epos and drop shipment are also available that have been specifically created to add value and keep costs low.