SGF: “Prepare for the worst”

C-STORE owners who have faced the challenge of a supermarket or discounter moving into their area told other retailers what to look out for at a special event at Stirling University, last month.

Speakers at the SGF’s seminar on ‘Retailing in a Challenging Environment’, included Kathryn McCusker, of Spar Hawick, who has been campaigning to try to stop a new Aldi store opening in her town.

She said: “If you find yourself in the same situation, don’t be afraid to ask anyone for help. And be aware of what’s happening in your local area, because a planning application can go in without you knowing it.”

Nisa retailer Graeme Knowles (left) has been in direct competition with a Tesco across the street for the last three years, while Linda Williams (right) is now preparing for the arrival of Aldi near her Premier store.

Linda Williams, of Broadway Premier in Edinburgh, is currently preparing for the opening of a new Aldi on her doostep.

“We’ve no illusions that it’s going to hurt, but hopefully we’re as ready as we can be,” she said.

Delegates heard how her store’s range and layout had been revised, while more effort was being made to advertise Premier’s own-label range.

“Aldi and Lidl are both just big own-label shops,” she said.

“We all could do exactly what they do with our own-label offering. We need to shout about these things more.”

Graeme Knowles, of Nisa Local, Aberdeen, told how he had coped in the three years since Tesco moved in across the street.

“As time went on it was apparent we needed to remix the store offer,” he said, describing how he brought a post office into the store and is in the final stages of adding a food-to-go section.

“We’ve adapted and moved forward. It never ends in our trade. You can’t stand still,” he said.

SGF president Abdul Majid, who faced a similar threat from Tesco, warned: “Prepare for the worst. It’ll make you look at every aspect of your store and by doing that you’ll improve.”

He also advised talking to effective retailers and suppliers at industry events.

The SGF’s new chief executive Pete Cheema closed by saying the organisation was now “geared up” to fight and wanted to find more ways to support members through such challenges.

However, he added: “We can only do that if you come and support us at these events. If you keep away, we’re finished.”