The local independent retailers doing things very differently

When not one, but two articles popped up in the weekend newspapers recently about funky corner shops, we knew this was something worth sharing. Not just a whimsical fad but an established trend and one which international and speciality food and drink suppliers should take heed of.

The Times magazine carried the story entitled ‘The Supermarket of Dreams’, an achingly cool London grocery store that attracts celebs from David Beckham to Hugh Jackman. Journalist Sacha Bonsor brings it to life:

“Above our heads hangs a bright neon sign emblazoned with the store’s name, and surrounding us are spot-lit aluminium vitrines, lined with foods from some of the country’s best chefs: Ottolenghi’s plum slice, doughnuts from St John Bakery, Gelupo gelato from Jacob Kenedy of Bocca di Lupo fame. On the window, neon scrawl advertises the nightly izakaya menu, when the central counter is cleared of pastries and hosts a sushi bar instead, with a weekly ten-course tuna tasting menu. The fish arrives fresh from Spain — customers don gloves, tease meat off the carcass and watch as it’s transformed into sushi.”

Owner Chris D’Sylva, a straight-talking Aussie, has some excellent words of wisdom, “Act bigger than you are — that’s my motto”. Not a man to mince his words, he describes his stores as, “the most f***ing ridiculous version of Tesco Express possible.”

And therein lies the point. It’s not just your average store that customers pop into out of necessity to pick up a few bits they forgot from the weekly shop. It’s a destination. People come from miles around especially to visit.

Literally a ‘Supermarket of Dreams’, a place to be seen and to rub shoulders with the glittering celeb world of West London. Its attraction is that it offers shoppers a wonderful experience and that is the key to getting people to stay longer and spend more. So, whilst you can buy your washing powder and your toothpaste here, you don’t just leave with those relatively low value items. The beauty of the surroundings and the exclusive produce on offer means people stay (and spend) for hours, you certainly can’t complete a ten course tuna tasting menu in ten minutes!

The same weekend as the Supermarket of Dreams article appeared, so too did an article entitled, “How cool is your corner shop? – this one from Hannah Connolly in The Sunday Times Style magazine” A run-down of luxury grocery stores with a difference, “from supper clubs to cult merch, there’s more to your local store these days than just a pint of milk.”

Just like the Supermarket of Dreams, these stores have realised that just selling products is not the way to maximise shopper spend. By putting on events and experiences, the owners start to build brand loyalty for the store amongst their clientele. Brand loyalty is something the biggest companies in the world strive for, it’s what keeps shoppers coming back and creates an army of brand advocates.

So, what does this mean for food and drink brands looking for an opportunity to make it big in the UK? It means that when you are researching coming to the UK, spend time really looking at the retail landscape here. There are the obvious big grocery multiples like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons etc which are great to get into but are also fiercely competitive and require product at scale. But we always advise thinking more about the opportunity, it’s worth looking at some of the cool delis and independent retailers and offering them your product as something unique and special from abroad and who knows, the likes of the Beckhams could become your brand’s biggest fans!

We regularly run webinars on the subject of food and drink companies landing in the UK, offering support and advice on what to research before you arrive and what to do when you are here. We also recommend that you read the UK papers to watch for trends so delighted to share this to prove it works! If you’d like to hear more, please do get in touch.

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