Winner: Spar Thornliebank
Merchandising Award winner 2014 – in association with P&G.
Interview with Allan Coupar, assistant manager
Size: 2,500 sq ft
Opening hours: 7am – 10pm Monday – Saturday, 8am – 10pm Sunday
• Manager Gerry Haughey has worked at the store, in the Glasgow district of Thornliebank, since he was in school. He began around 16 years ago.
• Assistant manager Allan has been at the Thornliebank outlet for four years.
• The store has been under the Spar fascia for at least 25 years.
It was a Freshways shop before that. Spar wholesaler and retailer C J Lang owns the store.
• Spar Thornliebank has twice been the winner of the Scottish Grocer Confectionery Retailer of the Year Award. After missing out on making it a hat trick, Gerry decided to try his luck in a few other categories.
• The store was also highly commended at the Scottish Grocer Awards 2014 in the Bread Retailer of the Year and Tobacco Retailer of the Year categories.
Top of the range
ECONOMIC times have been tough for consumers in recent years and the team at award-winning Glasgow c-store Spar Thornliebank has noticed changes in consumer behaviour. Good value and great deals have become significantly more important to shoppers, the unit’s assistant manager Allan Coupar told Scottish Grocer. And that’s had an effect on many things that store manager Gerry Haughey and his colleagues do, including their work on merchandising.
These days shoppers are more ready than before to consider a wide range of branded, own-label and low-cost products, and in all product categories they’re looking for deals, deals, deals, Allan said.
Close knowledge of the store’s customers’ preferences is at the heart of Spar Thornliebank’s success, both generally and as winner of the Scottish Grocer Merchandising Award 2014, run in association with P&G.
“We didn’t expect to win at all,” said Allan. “There were some really good stores this year across all of the categories, so it was even tougher than usual.”
But the team’s well-balanced range and meticulous merchandising put them at the top of the list.
“We try to keep everything faced up,” said Allan. “We get deliveries in three times a week and don’t hold much stock out the back, to avoid out-of-date issues.”
Systems are in place to make sure that empty spaces are minimised. “We check bread and milk every hour or two to make sure it’s fully stocked.
“If a customer can’t buy a loaf or a pint of milk when they come in for it, we make a promise to give them it free next time.
“It’s hard for people, prices are getting higher and customers want the best option for themselves and their families, so they see anything that’s price-marked as a great buy. We have £1 products available throughout the store and CJ Lang has done some great things with POS to highlight that.”
Core ranging and on-shelf layouts follow CJ Lang planograms but there is room for tweaking to suit those all-important local consumer preferences.
“The company sends out a large amount of planograms, which are great to an extent, but we can help customers who are looking for a certain product by ranging it in for them. If we get something that we know for a fact customers aren’t going to buy then we’ll tweak things to keep a line that we know will sell,” Allan explained.
“One example is the Skinni range of meat products from Scottish Slimmers. They’ve been a very, very big seller for us. We don’t do the full range because it’s too much to hold, but we will get it in specifically for customers who have asked for this product.
“Someone in the area must have been to a Scottish Slimmers event and was telling their pals they could get it here. It spread around Facebook, which is good publicity for us.”
Careful choices of location and adjacency for the various product categories and a significant amount of cross-merchandising are used both to help customers quickly get everything they need for different meals and occasions and, of course, to encourage extra purchases.
The chilled category at the back of the store is one, in particular, where Gerry and Allan are keen to site associated products nearby. Crisps are available close to dips, milk is adjacent to cereal and a fully stocked promotional stand of loaves sits next to the milk fixture.
“It’s about pointing it out to the customers by using point of sale,” said Allan. “That way it reminds them, ‘don’t forget your milk and don’t forget your bread’.
“We use that to drive people round to the bread section. The bread category is a great place for deals for us; we have a lot of £1 products from the bread companies, which sell very well.”
The bread display is an excellent example of the store’s meticulous merchandising. Products are sub-categorised by bread type, with wholemeal products, health bread and white bread given separate sections. Spar’s own brand is mixed in with other labels to give consumers a choice of value, standard and premium products.
It’s no surprise to find that Spar Thornliebank, a two-time winner of the Confectionery Retailer of the Year Award, takes confectionery merchandising very seriously indeed. Over the years it has cleverly developed its countlines section, sharing-sized packs area and kids confectionery zone. It has also done well with carefully considered boxed confectionery displays.
Spar Thornliebank is a fairly substantial c-store and while some sections, like confectionery and alcohol, are visible from the door others are not quite so easy to see.
So signs are prominently displayed in the area close to the entrance to ensure that customers can easily find the products they’re looking for.
The long-established store could see a refit in the future. But for now a combination of awareness of local preferences, adaptability and willingness to try new methods has kept the store, its layout and product displays fresh and relevant for its customers. And that all helps ensure those customers return to Spar Thornliebank.