Independents could benefit from following the example of northern supermarket chain Booths

Edwin Booth admires Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy. This fact leapt from the page in a revealing interview with the chairman of the 'North West's answer to Waitrose'. It also illuminated the reason behind Booths success: an open mind.

As the number of family-owned regional retailers has dramatically reduced, Booths has consistently consolidated its 26-supermarket group across Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire and Cumbria thanks to that unprejudiced mind.

The antithesis of Tesco, Booths is sheer atmosphere. When you walk in, you want to buy. Walk in, stay in and buy is the subliminal message. This prompts the question: has in-store buy-me atmosphere been deleted from local stores by the cold, spartan and functional contemporary shopfitting fashion?

When the recession began to bite, Booths quickly adopted a value strategy, which some would think was at odds with Booths' foodie provenance. But this has resulted in the company enjoying a remarkably successful year given the state of the economy.

Are there more clues to the group's success which independents might consider? Range perhaps? It's a big temptation for local stores to reduce stock costs by offering customers more limited choice as some philosophies recommend. But Booths stocks 26,000 lines, which is only just short of Sainsbury's.

Beer ranging is very generous with 400 lines. This cannot be copied by independents, but if you display local beers, premium bottled ales and local products you can bring in additional revenue a point of difference which many shoppers lust after.

Price is a very secondary consideration if the offering meets the shopper's mindset. There's no need to admire Sir Terry just admire and adapt Edwin Booth's open mind.

Alan Toft

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