Retailers Dennis and Linda Williams explain what they have been doing to prepare for the arrival of Aldi
Broadway Convenience Store Premier retailers Dennis and Linda Williams are reluctant to fight with their neighbours. Currently, every unit in the Oxgangs shopping precinct where they are based is occupied and the combined effect is to give local consumers an excellent supply of goods and services.
It’s an approach that seems to keep everyone happy. However, serious competition is now on the way.
It was in February this year that Edinburgh Council granted planning permission for a new Aldi to be built just a few yards from the couple’s store – an outcome they spent a full year campaigning to prevent.
Six months later and work has yet to get underway on the site of the new supermarket. By contrast, Broadway Premier has been a hive of activity.
While other retailers might be inclined to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach, Dennis and Linda are well aware of the impact Aldi is likely to have on their business. Armed with that knowledge, they have used the last few months to get a head start on the competition, improving their store a section at a time and developing a strategy to minimise the discounter’s impact.
They began by looking at Aldi’s offer and considering which categories, in their opinion, were not being marketed well. They reckoned that included alcohol, crisps and sweets.
They have improved their own alcohol offer by bringing in a new chiller, which as well as being more energy-efficient has allowed for better merchandising of more products on shelf and is keeping beers and cider much cooler than before.
Confectionery and snacks have similarly been moved around and remerchandised to bring out their full potential and to clear space for new Mega Deal end bays and a one-pound range.
“We’ve fine-tuned everything. We’ve got to make the most of absolutely every little bit of space,” said Linda.
“We are under no illusions that Aldi’s going to hit us very hard, but we’re equally confident that we can come back from it. However, anyone who’s sitting back thinking it won’t happen to them is kidding themselves.”
Dennis and Linda expect fresh produce will probably be the worst-affected category when Aldi arrives, with prices they can’t hope to match. However, they feel they have an untapped arsenal in their grocery section, with Booker’s Euro Shopper and Happy Shopper range.
“The thing is, our own label is just as cheap and probably as good, if not better than most of Aldi’s stuff. The challenge is in getting people to understand that.”
To that end, the couple are starting a series of in-store tastings, starting with Euro Shopper biscuits.
“Some of their digestives and rich teas are very good value for money, but people have likely not tasted them,” said Dennis. “So we’ll give them a taste and that way we might get a few of them hooked onto it. Another thing we’ve talked about, which is a great opportunity, is the big Euro draw on the last Friday of the month. That’s the time to do a sampling event, when you’ve got a lot of footfall in.
“What we’ve got to do is play to our strengths. We’ve done that with our wee refit and adding the beer chiller, we’ll continue with our tastings, and sending out thousands of extra leaflets.
“Visiting other shops also helps because you hear what other people are doing well and find some new ideas and new opportunities.”
As luck would have it, one new opportunity has recently appeared in the shape of the Post Office. With the local branch set to close, Dennis and Linda have applied to bring it into their store and are hopeful they will be successful, providing one more advantage over the competition.
Dennis added: “It’s just a matter of boxing clever. Some of it is common sense, but you’ve got to be proactive. That’s why we’re doing all this now. There’s no point waiting till Aldi opens, because by then it’s too late.”