VIRTUALLY every piece of research published on the subject in recent times says symbol (or fascia) stores are booming. Wholesalers with fascia operations can point to figures that show how stores that switch to the symbol style – and take advantage of recognisable branding, disciplined promotional deals and organised consumer communications programmes – see significant commercial benefits … and quickly.
Nevertheless, there are still many non-affiliated independents. But large numbers of them are making the journey to the symbol sector. It’s a path taken this year by the Arif family whose shop in Ladymuir Crescent in Glasgow’s Pollok housing estate has been entirely refitted and merchandised as a Day-Today store – part of the fast-growing symbol operation run by United Wholesale (Scotland).
It’s very much a family business. Brothers Usman and Adnan Arif are full time, their younger brother Sobhan works in the store and mum and dad, who ran the shop as an independent outlet for many years, are still very actively involved. At one time the store was run by the brothers’ grandfather.
The new Day-Today takes up one 800sq ft unit in a traditional housing estate parade of shops, which the business rents on a long lease from the council.
That, of course, means it isn’t huge and there were important issues to address before making the move to symbol operation. The change would mean the family would have to commit to a major refit and, as a result, to significant investment. Was the shop big enough and would the sales increase achieved be great enough to justify that?
Usman, currently doing a legal studies and business course at Napier University, and Adnan, a law graduate from the University of West Scotland, strongly argued the case for the switch, and it was agreed.
The family worked with Day Today, through United Wholesale (Scotland) and the Today’s Group, as well as with design, refit and refrigeration specialists SAS Shopfitting, to transform what is a relatively small shop into a carefully planned, full-service c-store that offers its customers everything from newspapers, tobacco and confectionery to chilled and fresh foods, groceries, household products and beers, wines and spirits. Importantly, it now also offers a comprehensive range of well-promoted deals.
The new layout accommodates a wide range of goods, a very easy-to-browse yet secure alcohol section, plentiful promotions space, and highly efficient and attractive refrigeration. And it gives good sight lines across the store.
The business is already seeing benefits.
“Footfall is up and basket spend is up,” Usman said.
“We’ve run leaflet drops and they’ve gone well. We’ve seen new customers from a wider area than before.
“We now have a good flow to the shop. The leaflets bring the customers in and they look out for the deals. That takes them around the store.”
For Adnan one of the most important things is that it’s now easier to illustrate the shop’s key attraction.
“Here the customer can get everything under one roof,” he said.
There are other stores in the area but many don’t have news and magazines and a drinks licence and a wide convenience range all in the same place. The new Day-Today combines essentials, impulse-purchase products and a very good top-up range, he explained.
One bold decision had been to close the store for more than a week to carry out the refit and the basic shelves layout.
The shopfront was transformed and now stands out brightly, in the fresh green livery of the core Day Today brand. The door position was moved from the centre of the unit; it’s now at the left hand side.
Inside, the unit features some of the most popular high-quality materials and equipment. The hard-wearing Keopi flooring tiles are the same as those used by many of the leading chain retailers. Lumisheet LED lighting provides bright, clear illumination and impressive energy efficiency.
Immediately on entering the store, on the left wall is the news and magazine area, followed by the greeting card section, an ATM machine, the two-door Teffcold freezer cabinet and a very well-shopped biscuits fixture.
On the back wall is the bread and bakery fixture – positioned to be visible from the store entrance. Much of the rest of the rear wall is taken up by two state-of-the-art, 2.25m, double-door, remote-controlled Arneg Osaka chiller units. The left-hand unit, next to the bread and bakery shelves, holds dairy goods and chilled foods. The right-hand unit is dedicated to a large range of soft drinks.
Shelves for ambient soft drinks, which include very popular large bottles of carbonated drinks such as Irn-Bru and Coca-Cola, take up part of the right-hand wall of the store. And it’s there where the L-shaped designated alcohol area begins. It’s a stand-out part of the shop and, for Usman, it perfectly illustrates some of the reasons he and the family found it rewarding to work with Day Today and with SAS Shopfitters.
“We spoke to a number of symbol groups and to a number of shopfitters,” he said.
“But I think Day-Today understands what is needed in this type of store. The deals are relevant for it. They include the brands that people in this area want.
“And when I said that we wanted the alcohol area to be secure some of the others said, ‘No you need to have your drinks out on the shelves’.”
United Wholesale and Day Today had been willing to listen and to say the retailer probably knew what was best for his store, he said.
“And Dereck at SAS listened carefully and designed a solution that’s ideal.
“We have a screen which is just like a second shopfront; it’s so clear. It means we can display the drinks as you’d want and the customers can see them. But only those behind the counter can get at them. I think it’s great,” he said.
In the centre of the store three 1410mm-high fixtures hold ambient groceries, hot beverages, petfood, household goods, toiletries, crisps and snacks, and more. And the store features low-profile, gondola-end units at both ends of each the central fixtures. It provides six major promotional sites in a compact shop. The all-important, and very prominently displayed, deals are helping the store establish a reputation for good value.
The shop’s till area is fronted by a wide display of confectionery. The counter is designed to take a number of counter-top display units and also holds a Rollover hotdog unit and a Slush Puppie machine. Scottish Grocer visited last month just ahead of some final merchandising work – which was scheduled to include the introduction of some fresh produce stands – to be carried out by the United Wholesale and Day-Today team just before the store’s official open day.
Usman reckons the work has ushered in a new era for the store and the family business and he’s especially grateful for the work carried out by the refitters.
“I think Dereck Lang and SAS Shopfitters did an amazing job, here,” he said.
“The quality of the finish is excellent but it wasn’t all about that, they did much more. They got us thinking in a different way.
“And Dereck went well beyond the call of duty many times. I really appreciate that he did that”
After a number of bold decisions, a week-long refit and the development of some close working relationships with enthusiastic specialist firms, a 24-year old Glasgow business has packed an enormous amount under a single roof and embarked on a whole new path … in the age of the symbol store.