Spar retailer Bob Beatty reflects on how Tesco and Sainsbury have honed their c-store offer.

While the All Party Small Shops Group waited to see what evidence Tesco would give at the hearings into the future of the UK’s high streets, c-store retailers are finally getting to see the multiple giant’s full power, according to retailer Bob Beatty. Bob, who runs five Spar stores in the Midlands, says Tesco and Sainsbury’s now fully understand what it takes to be a modern c-store retailer.

He says: “When they first entered the market we were all keen to see how they would set up their offer, and for a long time they didn’t get their ranges right. Now they seem to have built up their intelligence of the market and kicked on from there.” That knowledge now includes how to target those product categories that have often been major sales opportunities for independent retailers.

“You just have to walk through the door of any Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local and the first thing that hits you is the stack of beer on promotion,” says Bob. “The off licence section is a big seller for c-stores and the supermarkets have taken note of that. They are now putting offers in place that many retailers can’t match, especially coming up to Christmas.” While the off licence section in c-stores is only now being fully targeted by the multiples, Bob has already seen a marked difference in his sales in another area that Tesco and Sainsbury’s are focusing heavily on.

Bob says: “Their whole frozen section is taken up by deals that no small retailer can compete with. I used to get two deliveries of frozen food a week, now all I need is one - that’s how much it has impacted on my trade.” However, Bob believes frozen food can still play a role in most c-stores if store owners concentrate on specific consumers. He comments: “There are now more consumers who are single and purely shopping for themselves. Retailers need to target them by offering competitively priced meal solutions.

Products such as Yorkshire puddings that complement a meal should also be stocked because they may be forgotten in their big weekly shop. By doing this, retailers can still run a viable frozen section.”