With many years of retail experience behind him, James Alexander already has a good handle on what works and what doesn’t in his business, Saulflands Store in Christchurch, Dorset. But he also knows that in retail sometimes you have to keep an open mind and be prepared to try something new.

So he was an ideal candidate for our first Chilled Champions makeover, which saw a group of leading suppliers assess his chilled range and layout, make recommendations and re-lay the fixture.

The range in James’s store was already fairly good, so most of the initial work carried out by the Chilled Champions involved reorganising the flow of products. Suppliers also suggested to James where he could add more branded lines to help shoppers navigate the fixture better and to align the selection of varieties and pack formats to shopper trends.

Saulflands Store has a steady stream of regulars, but is opposite a large caravan site so summer holiday trade makes up an important proportion of turnover. As such, the poor early summer weather and tough domestic economy have made trading a challenge for many retailers, and Saulflands Store is no exception.

Chilled Champions

Chilled Champions is an initiative from Convenience Store in partnership with leading suppliers Dairy Crest, Kepak, Müller Dairy, PepsiCo, Kerry Foods DTS and Robert Wiseman Dairies.

The objective is to provide independent convenience retailers with comprehensive category advice to help the industry maximise the opportunities within the chilled sector by sharing best practice and making recommendations on range, layout, customer flow, category adjacencies and visibility in store.

Our thanks go to all the retailers who have contacted the C-Store office so far, and the group will aim to visit as many of the stores as possible. If you’d like a visit from the Chilled Champions to update and improve your chilled range, contact C-Store editor David Rees on david.rees@wrbm.com, or call 01293 610218.

“It feels like we’ve had a busy summer although people are probably spending less, so we haven’t seen a massive difference in sales year on year,” says James. “But we have noticed that chilled sales have held up well since the makeover, whereas other areas are down, so it’s definitely been a worthwhile exercise.

“The basis of the original fixture is still there, but there is a better flow to it now, from milk to fats and yogurts and then on to meat and ready meals,” he continues. “It draws you along, and we’ve had no negative comments from customers at all.

“The project has also made us try a few lines that we wouldn’t have otherwise, and they seem to have taken off. For example, we didn’t do much branded cheese, it was mainly farm varieties, but since we started stocking Cathedral City it’s been doing very well. Following advice from the suppliers we’ve also added sliced and grated formats, and those have been popular.”

New drinks in the chiller have also been successful, James points out. “Chilled juices have done well. I used to stock just one Tropicana line, but now I do all the small size variants and a few of the large ones, too. Copella apple has also sold well, as has Sunny D - basically, as I added more variants, sales went up. Starbucks cold coffees were popular so I’ve now added Emmi. We tried them a few years ago and they didn’t move, but coffee’s very big now in the UK.”

Variety has also driven sales in James’s separate food-to-go chiller, where Rustlers and Zugo’s have taken off. “They’ve done really well since we put them back in. That section is very impulse-driven so we’ve tried a lot of lines to keep it interesting.”

So, with Mace (P&H) now delivering chilled products to James three days a week, he’s very satisfied with his new offering, and is looking forward to the future. “It will be interesting to see how the range performs during the winter period,” he adds. •