Valerie Aston, director of Scarborough-based supermarket chain Proudfoot Group, which is a Nisa member
Daniel Wilson, Wilson Retail, operating 20 One Stop stores in North Yorkshire
“We left Nisa in 2015 and chose One Stop at the time because we always liked to control our own orders in the office and let the manager just run the store and not have to worry about that. One Stop stood out as they ran their stores similarly to how we did.
“It’s quite an easy operation. The automatic ordering has been good for us.
“There are certain restrictions, but when you’re running multiple stores you don’t always mind as much because we wanted to stick to more of a structure.
“One Stop isn’t perfect, I think sometimes they’re not quick enough moving on stuff. They’ve changed the chilled range recently, which has been a bit behind at times, so that’s good. I still think the lead time could be improved on it and there’s more you could get from it. Sometimes with innovations, they’re not always first off the mark with stuff. They can be a little bit behind.
“But the rest of it is pretty good - their offers and prices are very strong. And they have good products, the ranging isn’t bad. You are limited to certain ranges, but it’s quite well done. They do that core part very well. Of all the groups, I don’t see anyone better.
“With One Stop there’s a plan and we can keep everything perfect to range. We don’t have stock that’s not out and different stock coming in.
“It depends what your preference is. For us, we just want shops that are consistent. They update your ranges and trends tend to get picked up on very well.
“With certain categories if you want a bit more flair you can fiddle around with it. We do it with chilled a bit and some other ranges. It’s not totally locked.
“I find One Stop very unpretentious. Generally if you ask for stuff, then within reason, there’s a good chance you’ll get it.
“They gave a bonus back to retailers just recently, which is nice.
“One Stops probably suits stores around about the 1,800 - 2000 sq foot mark, you get a really good, compact range and you get really good competitive pricing. They don’t lend themselves to larger stores. If you had a 3,000 sq foot store, they’ll get you a range in, but it won’t be as good really as maybe somebody else might provide.
“Without One Stop we would never have done what we’ve done … I think we’ve been good for each other.
“We feel really confident facing the future with One Stop.”
Rob Meekins, Meekins Fleetwood Spar, Lancashire
“I’ve been with Spar for 18 months. I was with Premier previously and then I moved premises and had a refit with more chillers. The old store was teeny tiny, the new one is 1,199 sq ft. We went with Spar because of the way they do their fresh food. It made a massive difference because they’ve got such a better range of fresh food, plus the seasonal offers for Easter and Christmas.
“They’ve been massively supportive. I’ve got an area rep called Danny and he comes round monthly, if not a bit more frequently. He tries to help me through everything. I’ve got a fresh rep called Sean, he’s down every couple of months and there’s a guy from [James Hall’s non-food supplier G.A.P Convenience Distribution] GAP who comes to see me every quarter, so I get quite a few reps and few phone calls and emails just making sure that it there’s any problems then they can sort it for me. Spar’s support with all the reps and everything has been a massive help.
“They do listen to you … my main delivery used to come on a Thursday between 12 and 3 and it became a bit of an issue because it was coming a bit later. So I spoke to them about it and they changed it so that it comes in with my fresh and frozen on a Wednesday morning first thing. Instead of just playing lip service they saw an issue I had and they made changes.
“We’re looking at bringing in hot food so they took me to see stores that were doing it and to the James Hall main site where they’ve got a mock kitchen. I’ve never done it before so it’s out of my wheelhouse, but they have reps that will come round and speak to you to make sure you’re doing everything correctly and the whole staff are trained on how we prepare the food properly and then present it. So I’ve got no worries when we do take that step because I know that they’ll make sure it’s all right.
“If there’s one thing [they could improve on], I guess it’s the designation of certain stock. At the moment, we’ve got these Alani drinks in that are designated to each store. It’s a bit annoying, I don’t really want them.
“But the other side of that is the reason I’ve got them is because we got [designated] all those Primes when they were flying out and they were brilliant. You can’t get one without the other, so now my shop’s got a couple of FSDUs [free standing display units] that I could really do without, especially coming up to Christmas. We’ve probably been given a few too many Mr Beast bars. And then these Alani ones, but I’m not too fussed. People are still buying it, it’s not going out of date, they are selling slowly. I’d have rather not had them, but in comparison to not having Primes, I’d rather have it this way round.
“The back office system that records the sales is dead easy to work and find things you need.
“I feel like I’m quite a small Spar compared to others and that just means that there is clear potential to grow. It gives you that new lease of life to keep pushing.
“Since we’ve gone to Spar, people come in and they get their baskets and they fill them full of fresh food and you get that half weekly shop.”
Lisa Browne, Browne & Day Costcutter, Claudy, Londonderry, N. Ireland
“My husband’s family business is a Ford car dealership, and they always had pumps. He approached Costcutter to see if they would be interested in setting up a small shop so we could have longer opening hours for our pumps. We got a 300 square foot portacabin and we started there [in 2014].
“Then in May 2022, we opened a 2,500 sq ft newbuild. Costcutter have looked after us really well. They keep helping us expand and grow to where we want to be.
“I’m really happy with our relationship with Costcutter. I really like the independence, we are our own store and I’m not having anyone telling me ‘do this’ or ‘do that’. I can have a bit of freedom to bring in local suppliers, which I wouldn’t be able to do with other franchises.
“They give us a good range of offers too and it’s great that we’ve got the Co-op range as well through Costcutter because it’s something different that we can offer our customers. The Co-op lines are really well priced and they’re excellent quality.
“We have a business development manager, Jim, and he’s absolutely brilliant. Nothing’s ever a bother to him. He calls in and if I need something done, he’s happy to go out and change promotions or stock shelves or anything … he works with me rather than telling me what to do.
“He came with me a couple of weeks ago and we did an Easter egg order. He’ll sit down with me and print out what I ordered last year and we’ll go through it - what sold well and what didn’t.
“Last week my handheld Piccolink scanner stopped working and we rang support but they said it would need new parts so they sent me all the details to send it away to get it fixed. So I rang Jim … and he was here within an hour with a scanner that he borrowed from somewhere for me to use.
“Communication is very good at Costcutter. We get emails quite regularly from Bestway to tell us about special promotions and pre sales that are coming up.
“Also if our delivery is going to be late or there are changes in circumstances, they’re very good at letting us know.
“I am part of their working retailer group and every few months we meet up with the head of Bestway and Costcutter and that’s where we get to voice our opinion to say ‘these offers are too repetitive’ or ‘we’d like to change this leaflet’. So there are changes coming through.
“For example, one of the things we asked for was more bulk deals like pallet deals and that’s something now that’s coming across.
“It is really good because at least you get to voice your opinion … and they are listening and they are making changes.
“It’s also nice to talk to the other retailers when you go as well because it’s nice to know other people are in the same boat as you and what’s working well for them.
“Something Costcutter could probably improve on is that they sometimes struggle with Northern Ireland brands, so I order the likes of McKinney’s and Shaws from another local supplier.
“I do think they are good though, apart from a few of the Northern Ireland products. We also have a rebate scheme which is really good as well, so that definitely helps.”
Valerie Aston, director of Scarborough-based supermarket chain Proudfoot Group, which is a Nisa member
“Since 1980, Proudfoot has understood the advantages of being a partner of a group such as Nisa, with the obvious benefits of scale and support. And, since 2018 we have benefited due to the Co-op Acquisition of Nisa, bringing enhanced buying capacity, competitive pricing, promotions and access to the award winning Co-op own label range. Nisa provides a complete support package for any retailer looking to achieve success in their business, including a retail focused team, category management support and full marketing package.
“Our family business has been trading in Scarborough for over 70 years and Nisa has supported us with our decision to continue with the Proudfoot fascia above the door.
“As with anyone working within the supermarket industry, recent years have been particularly challenging and we have all had to work together to serve our local communities. Nisa has had its challenges, like any other, but we have worked together as a group to ensure stock is distributed evenly across the business. It is still difficult, but where it can Nisa supports and advises accordingly.
Proudfoot enjoys an open and honest conversation with all parties within Nisa and discussions, ideas, and feedback are listened to.
“Not everything you would wish happens, and that will be down to a variety of reasons and limitations, but the majority of the time Nisa colleagues appreciate constructive feedback, which is always given, from our point of view, for the benefit of the partnership as a whole!
“The strength of being part of Nisa is the full retail support package which helps us within such a competitive market, and access to the Co-op Own Label range. And of course, Nisa’s recognition of community involvement through their industry leading Making A Difference Locally Charity, ensuring retailers can support good causes in their local area!
“During the cost of living crisis we have seen increased pressure in the pricing of our customers’ weekly shop. As inflationary pressures have eased suppliers, and therefore Nisa, need to ensure they pass on any reductions as quickly as possible and Nisa needs to ensure it challenges and manages its pricing accordingly.
“As the saying goes, ‘Team work is Dream Work’ and as long as Nisa as a whole continues to work together and collaborate with its partners, ensuring as a buying group it continues to be the best offer for the independent retailer, then Proudfoot will remain confident that Nisa is their ‘Partner’ of choice!”