Want to improve your chilled food sales? It’s all about the range and the merchandising, as two West Midlands retailers found out.

At the start of the year the Chilled Champions team of manufacturers went into two stores in the West Midlands to help them improve their chilled offer. Both stores were ticking over nicely, but the owners in both cases felt that the chilled section was not delivering as much as it should, or could. And they are wise to think so: according to HIM data, chilled food shoppers spend a third more than the average c-store shopper, and visit a c-store an average of 3.8 times a week.

The first store, Akbal Cheema’s Costcutter-branded outlet in Bloxwich, West Midlands, is a small community store with a good range of essentials. Chillers make up the length of one wall, but Akbal felt he was having to reduce the price of items too often, so asked for advice.

With no additional space to work with, the Champions’ recommendation concentrated on aligning the product sub-categories differently, adding more best-selling brands in the best-selling formats, and creating space for new products such as fresh pizzas.

And the results? A nearly 10% increase in chilled goods ordered. And margins are better, too, as there is less reliance on promotions and a significant cut in the number of lines that Akbal had to reduce in order to sell through.

Akbal told C-Store: “I’m really pleased. Overall, I’m restocking more products that aren’t on promotion than I used to. We’re on Costcutter’s premium service so I’d receive 115 chilled cases over three days. I’m ordering 10 cases a week more now, and reducing a lot less items.

“Rustlers snacks certainly took off after being remerchandised. Willow and Country Life butter also went well. I wouldn’t have considered stocking them before, but they go really well.

“Yogurts ticked over nicely; I change the varieties a bit, but Müller light strawberry and mandarin are worth keeping all the time, as are strawberry and apple Müller Rice.”

Not everything worked, he added. “Fresh pizzas didn’t sell enough so we have gone back to frozen, but most of the customers said it was a lot easier with the products in distinct sections. The only complaints were from those who were looking for reduced price lines!”
Bal Aulak’s Select & Save store in Shirley, West Midlands, is a large and recently refurbished outlet with excellent chilled space already in place.

However, the Chilled Champions team felt that still more sales could be achieved by changing the flow of category sections, improving the range within key categories to include more top-sellers, and enhancing the impact of displays further.

The key change was to move milk from the middle of the chilled run to occupy its own dedicated section at the end.

Says Bal: “I’m very pleased with how it worked out. Overall chilled sales have gone up. I was a bit unsure about moving the milk, but I haven’t lost any sales as a result, and there is much better continuity to the whole section and we’re getting better results in meat, both fresh and cooked.

“I’ve added a few more yogurts, as we were missing some top lines. Previously, we were buying mainly on promotion, but we have a more consistent range now. Repeat sales have been good, and I think we’ll see things get even better when the weather picks up.

“I’ve also jazzed up the chiller a bit, with more theatre, more bus stop signs and £1 signs. We’re communicating our offer better, and the chiller is more of a key selling point and has more focus.

“The project has exceeded my expectations. I’ve improved the range, gained more sales, and increased the theatre. It’s all very well buying the deals, but I’ve learned you also have to highlight that they are there.”

Chilled Champions

Chilled Champions is an initiative from Convenience Store in partnership with leading suppliers Dairy Crest, Kepak, Müller Dairy, PepsiCo, Kerryfresh and Müller 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.