I’ve just got back from an exhibition of shop suppliers in Dusseldorf, which I attended with Simply Fresh director Kash Khera and Raj Aggarwal from Londis in Leicestershire. It was an exhausting journey as we travelled by car, but worth it to see the latest technology. What caught my eye were dairy cabinets with neon blue lights at the top and bottom and media screens inside showing chiller promotions. I was also interested in the wine displays. Instead of shelving, they had black 
wired racking that displayed the bottles at a 
45 degree angle.

These are the ideas that can make your store stand out from the competition. It is going to get even tougher at Headington soon as I have found out that the Sainsbury’s Local nearby is being bought by Tesco Express, so establishing points of difference is key.

I made sure that we stood out from rivals this Valentine’s Day by offering two linked deals. I doubled the amount of flowers I ordered this year and we created a fixture with large boxes of Thorntons, prosecco and fresh flowers inside, as well as displaying flowers outside. We offered the Thorntons and prosecco together for a tenner, and with the flowers for £13. Bought individually, these three items would be double the price, so it sold really well.

I had to negotiate hard with my flower supplier to get them at the right price, which meant that when sold as part of the deal I was making a 15% margin. Now we’re getting ready for Mother’s Day so I’ll look to do another link deal.

The Valentine’s offer was especially successful because my staff were trained to take the price label off the flowers at the till and then gift wrap them for free. I decided to do this after listening to a speaker at the National Convenience Show a couple of years ago who said that even though florist flowers and forecourt flowers might be the same quality, the recipient will be a lot happier if they are gift wrapped rather than in cellophane from the garage. I’d advise any retailer to make notes when you hear a good speaker so that you can take their suggestions back to your store and tell your staff about them.