How discounters are filling the spaces abandoned by supermarkets.
The UK’s cost-of-living crisis is familiar to us all now, but it continues to drive creativity among retailers. It can also still create an occasional surprise.
It is always interesting when stores at the ‘budget’ end of the market start to be used by customers who are accustomed to more expensive places, but who have spotted a way to save money. Canny retailers will quickly spot an opportunity to offer them new goods and services.
For example, until a few years ago outlet malls in the UK would offer a very limited dining experience. Noticing a demand for better food as their customer base moved upmarket, they started to introduce more expensive restaurants and coffee shops. It is not uncommon today to be able to choose between three or four sit-down dining venues and a row of street food vans, at a centre that used to offer just a Cornish Pasty shop.
Now, discount chain Home Bargains has raised eyebrows by adding bakeries to its stores, to feed customers and add a just-baked scent to its premises. At a time when many big supermarkets are removing their bakeries it is a bold move – and probably a smart one.
Wales Online: “I tried Home Bargains’ new in-store bakery and their bargain sausage rolls, pastries and doughnuts are as good as Lidl or Greggs”.
The strategy has gained a lot of attention, most of it positive. In the UK, a nation that is strangely obsessed with sausage rolls, to be judged ‘As good as Greggs’ by Wales Online is high praise indeed.
It may well tempt more new customers to Home Bargains. There has been a gradual reduction in supermarket counters offering fresh meat, fish or baked goods, and while the supermarket accountants may celebrate the lower costs, customers simply go elsewhere.
I recently spoke to a dedicated foodie who has become a regular Morrisons shopper, entirely because it is the only supermarket local to her that still has a fresh fish counter. That represents a direct loss to her previous supermarket of choice.
Many Home Bargains stores are conveniently-located close to a branch of Aldi, the other prime venue for shoppers looking to limit their grocery spending. It won’t take those shoppers much effort to walk a few metres to try out some baked goods.
Soon, all of the services that the big supermarkets have ceased to offer will be available in or near to the discount stores. Which is where all the shoppers are, too.
Of course, not all of the changes caused by the cost of living are positive. One is truly shocking.
We have all heard of cars or jewellery being stolen to order, but it seems that organised gangs are now targeting branches of Waitrose – and surely other retailers too. The gangs arrive en masse, with a plan of attack, and often terrify staff while taking items that have been ‘ordered’ in advance,
“We know that because the items being stolen are those higher-value items like meat, alcohol, coffee, confectionery – the kind of items that can be sold on quite easily on social media or down the pub,” says Chris Noice of the Association of Convenience Stores.
Waitrose has tried what sounds like the most British response possible: stopping theft through politeness. ‘Love-bombing’ is a tactical response that involves being so polite and attentive to suspects that they don’t have the chance to steal anything.
The real answer must lie with the Police, though their time and resources are under even more pressure than those of retailers.