After extensive customer research, Scotmid Co-operative is rolling out a new, premium ‘black’ store format based around high-quality fresh and local food. The society is on course to have 13 outlets in the new style by November with the initial premium store, at Warrender Park in Edinburgh, winning the accolade of best Multiple Store at the 2013 Convenience Retail Awards. C-Store went to have a look

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1) Completely new external colours, graphics and fonts are used at the premium sites, and the windows have been kept clear to aid visibility. Warrender Park, the first of the Scotmid premium stores, opened in July last year. The Warrender Park site was originally two shops, an off licence on the left and a grocery store on the right, and both entrances have been retained.

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2) There is a new focus on food, particularly fresh, produce, bakery and meal solutions. An agreement has been made with local baker Breadwinner to supply high-spec loaves and morning goods to Scotmid on an exclusive retail basis. The baker normally supplies only hotels and restaurants in the Edinburgh area.

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3) Produce is first in flow at all the new stores, and the intention is to create a market/greengrocer feel. Next in the flow come meal solutions meal preparation items such as cooking sauces were re-ranged to include more premium products. Across all premium stores, sales of fresh produce are up 85%, with fresh meat up 55%. Warrender now sells 700 cases of fresh produce a week.

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4) Theatre as well as freshness forms a key part of the offer, with coffee grinders and fresh orange juice machines in store. Warrender Park sells about 70-80 servings per week, either pre-packed or freshly squeezed in front of your eyes. Priced at £1.49 per bottle, the margins are good, too, and regular customers can get a free serving via a loyalty card scheme. The oranges are locally grown.

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5) The neighbourhood around Warrender comprises upmarket property and student accommodation, and sales are steady at £65,000-£70,000 per week, although out of term time the turnover drops by about 10-15%. Students are offered a 5% discount card promoted via social media and available through a touch-screen terminal in-store.

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6) Scottish and local products have been included where possible and have been given a greater focus. Warrender stocks Scottish favourites and ‘really local’ goods across as many categories as possible, including fresh.

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7) The challenge at the smaller stores is to turn the maximum area possible into selling space without alienating customers. Feedback suggested that some Scotmid stores were not well-shopped by mums because it was difficult to get buggies around, so aisles were widened and more space created to act as a queuing area at busy times.

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8) The three values of heritage, local and independent are projected at every opportunity, and the society is also making the most of its win in the Convenience Retail Awards 2013.

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9) In other premium stores, such as this one at Marchmont, a bakery table is used to present the premium breads, pastries and other baked goods. Where space allows, the bakery table is an essential part of the premium format.

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10) The store at Barnton, an upmarket suburb of Edinburgh, trades head-on with Sainsbury’s Local and Tesco Express outlets but, since its conversion to a premium format, is winning the battle. Sales are up 40% since the refit, thanks to additional chilled food space, a fine wine and spirits selection, ‘free from’ grocery range and the popular bakery table.

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11)Barnton also features the latest version of the in-store graphics, conveying an independent market-type feel with a touch of fun. Hand-written recipe suggestions also help bring the grocery fixtures to life.