C-Store Champions

Karl Rasmussen, Rasmussen’s Costcutter, Skegness

Karl and wife Annette pride themselves on putting customers first. They offer home deliveries for elderly customers and organise events for the community.

David Smith, Smiths Corner Stores (Londis), Grimoldy, Louth
David, who runs the store wife Kathryn, is always keen to stand up for retailers’ rights and is a keen supporter of local produce.

Chris Pollard, Barlby Village Stores (Mace), Barlby, Selby
A true innovator, Chris is quick to spot an opportunity to give himself a point of difference from the mults. He is also a keen supporter of recycling.

Bob Gibson, Premier, Basingstoke, Hampshire
A community spirited retailer, Bob ensures that his store is at the hub of the village by organising fun activities. Last year he organised carol singing outside his store.

Do different types of promotions work best for different product categories?

Chris: With confectionery and impulse you’ll always get away with multibuys. Within groceries and homecare shoppers would rather have price cuts.

David: We find that our normal promotional tactics don’t work on household products. Instead, when we start stocking a new one we offer a reduced introductory price. Then we find that many try the product and are happy to continue buying it once the promotion is over.

Karl: On food to go, meal deals work best, whereas with wine we find multibuys are successful at the weekend, and half-price bottles do well in the week.

Bob: The pound deals work well in most product categories, but obviously we can’t run them on milk, so instead we sell 2ltr for £1.39, which is cheaper than both Somerfield and Morrisons. We put posters up telling customers about the deal, and I’m planning to do something similar with bread soon.

Has the type of promotion changed over the past year

Chris: Bogof is still appealing, but what people really want is for prices to be knocked down.

David: Our hottest promotions from a year ago are still popular now: three bottles of wine for £10 and half-price or better deals.

Karl: People are still buying into the same promotions, but just before Christmas some didn’t go down as well as they normally would, but that’s just a sign of the financial times.

Bob: They seem to like pound deals at the moment. Rounded prices weren’t a big deal a year ago, but are very popular now.

Do some products only sell when on promotion?

Chris: We don’t sell many Pot Noodles, but when they’re on promotion they fly out the door. It’s the same with Pringles they hardly move at £1.99, but they fly when they’re on at 99p.

David: Ready meal dinners are very slow to sell at their normal price, but if we do a meal deal and add in a bottle of wine then they work.

Karl: No, not in my store.

Bob: Pepsi is a good example of that. We have two big coke chillers, and that’s normally what sells best, but once it’s on promotion, Pepsi captures people’s interest.

How important is it for affiliated retailers to comply with symbol group promotions?

Chris: You can’t comply with all their promotions. I’m with Palmer & Harvey and if I don’t think the promotion they’re offering is a good deal, then I won’t put it on.

David: I don’t just take what symbol groups say as proof that a promotion will work. Symbol groups offer some great promotions, but you have to use your head, your experience and your previous figures to decide whether they will work for your particular store.

Karl: It’s very important it’s a way of getting manufacturers to support us and prove that c-stores are disciplined in the same way as the mults. If we can prove that, we’ll get more support from them.

Bob: It’s really important to comply symbol groups put a lot of money and effort into creating promotions and they’re very strong.

Have promotions become more important to your business in recent months?

Chris: Over the past year I’ve found that a few pence savings aren’t effective; they have to be head-turning deals.

David: No we’ve always based our business on strong promotions and that hasn’t changed.

Karl: Promotions have always been important, although we have increased our leaflet deliveries recently from 5,000 to 7,000 drops, and we’ve had a good response.

Bob: We have dedicated a lot more store space to promotions. We introduced Premier dumpbins in January. We also have promotions set up on the end of every aisle, whereas we used to just have them on one in the past.

Has your wholesaler responded well to market conditions by giving you the offers that you need?

Chris: We haven’t been given anything that I would call new. I guess the wholesalers have the same problems as us in the current climate.

David: One of the big plus points of Londis is that they’ve always been good with promotions.

Karl: We’ve had some very strong promotions from Costcutter they’re often better than what the multiples are offering.

Bob: I’ve been with Premier for two years and it was the best move I ever made. We get plenty of support from them.

How important is communication such as pos material and leaflets in running effective promotions?

Chris: You’ve got to have signs outside the store, shelf-edge labels and wobblers to let customers know about a promotion. Staff telling customers about a deal can also work well. If you see a customer sniffing around the alcohol section, you can direct them to the ‘three for £10’ wines.

David: It’s important to have staff well informed on why it is a good offer. That way, not only can they tell customers about the promotion, but till staff can also reassure them when they’re making the purchase that they’re getting a good deal. We don’t use customer leaflets, but from time to time we take out ads in the local paper and we’re in the local Village Talk magazine.

Karl: It’s very important to communicate the message. Costcutter runs newspaper ads and TV campaigns. We use a full range of pos: window posters, stack cards and shelf talkers.

Bob: Staff talking about the deal is the most important aspect. I gave all of my staff some of the washing powder we’re promoting to try out at home, so they are genuinely enthusiastic when they tell customers about it. Posters are also important

How do you decide how much product to order when running a promotion?

Chris: It’s guesswork to a degree. I make a purchase based on how much I estimate I’ll sell; I don’t go crackers unless it’s a really good deal. David: A lot is based on epos figures. You don’t want to be left with product at the end. Karl: It’s not too hard for us we have three deliveries a week so can always order more if a product sells particularly well. Bob: Premier gives us an allocation of promotional products. They send us the information four weeks in advance and we have the opportunity to order more or less if we choose. I usually look back at my epos data and then take into account additional factors such as the weather. Promotions with Booker come on a sale or return basis anyway.