Welcome to the launch of our Healthy Balance initiative. Over the next few issues we will be running a series of articles about the increasing demand for healthy diets and how stores can make a success out of selling healthy lines such as fresh fruit and veg, and low-fat alternatives to everyday products. We'll be looking at case studies from Scotland and Europe, giving an overview of the healthy food market and working with retailers to see how to attract the attention of customers and point them towards the healthier options.
Why? Because we think that you can do well out of the market too. We know that shoppers want to eat healthily - our survey on the following pages shows that. But we also know that the same consumers want to shop locally, so if their neighbourhood store could offer more in the way of healthy foods, then they would be even more likely to visit.
Obviously this is easier said than done. Getting a good supply of fresh food and controlling the wastage levels is a challenge for small stores, not to mention the usual difficulty in being able to offer a competitive price for fruit and veg.
We're not suggesting that every c-store should try to become a greengrocers overnight, but we've called it the Healthy Balance programme for a reason - it's about taking a balanced view and possibly taking a few simple steps to grab a piece of the action. We believe the consumer demand for healthy products is real, and that there is a strong case for trying to offer them in your store.
Meet the retailers
Over the next few weeks, we'll be keeping in regular contact with two c-store retailers to see how sales of healthy products, and particularly fresh fruit and veg, are going. We have adopted two stores in the West Midlands for the project and we will be working closely with Landmark, which is offering help and advice to the stores through its Hot House project and its new Five-A-Day initiative.
Firstly there is Bridgefield Stores, in Bilston, near Wolverhampton, which is supplied by Blakemore's and trades under the Lifestyle Express banner. The store is only a few years old and was built as part of a new housing estate.
Despite only having a very small produce section, sales of fresh fruit and veg run at around £200 per week, with wastage levels of around £25-£30.
Owner Mack Hayer says: "We're quite happy with what we're doing, but since we signed up with Lifestyle Express we've been doing a lot better. We do quite well on fresh, but there is wastage there. We concentrate on offering the right range at the right price. It's difficult to get the price the same as the multiples but you have to try to compete with them."
Store manager Taylor Sarbjet continues: "At the start, the wastage was very difficult, but we can control it better now. We buy in the right amount of stock and know how to keep customers happy."
While the wastage is a concern, it is a direct result of the store's high standards for freshness.
Taylor says: "In order to sell produce, we always have to be in stock, and it always has to be fresh. We always buy it in at least a week before the use by date. We can adjust the order from Blakemore's every day, and sometimes we get daily deliveries.
"We know most of our customers, but some are still surprised to find that we offer fruit and veg. But we have a lot of regulars too, and we are now looking to get more sales by bringing in new varieties."
The second store is Stamford News in Brierley Hill, near Dudley. The long-established store is a central point on the local estate and owners the Chhina family are local celebrities.
The store is currently being completely updated and refitted under Landmark's Hot House project, converting it from a traditional news and booze/greetings cards/grocery-based business into a modern convenience store with more chilled food and a bake-off.
Retailer Lacky Chhina says: "We needed extra impetus to our business so with Landmark we'll be making it a much more modern store."
We will follow the fortunes of both stores over the coming weeks, and reporting on their progress.