Independent retailers must embrace new retail technologies, according to Sanjeev Vadhera, financial director at North East Convenience Stores.
Speaking at the IGD Convenience Retailing conference on 21 November 2013, Vadhera said: “Technology for the independent is a massive minefield but one of the things the independent really needs to embrace.”
Vadhera, who runs a 22-strong Nisa symbol store chain in the north east of England, with his brother, Naveen, claimed independent retailers can also be more nimble, agile and responsive than multiples.
New location-based customer app
Vadhera revealed North East Convenience Stores is trialling a customer-focused, cost effective app in 15 stores, which enables it to target shoppers based on their physical location.
It allows the retailer to send messages from its offices to customers’ mobile phones when they are in a predefined radius from its stores.
In one recent campaign, the retailer sent a deal to users who were within the vicinity of St James’ Park with a promotional happy hour to target Newcastle United fans following a match win.
A similar promotion followed for Sunderland fans.
According to Vadhera, the app provides “more reasons for customers to come into store and puts money in the till”.
He added the app could be useful to sell short-dated stock and that campaigns can go viral and be “very powerful, when people share”.
North East Stores has launched an ‘app man’ character to promote the app in-store. Cardboard cut outs show in-store prices versus mobile phone prices.
Vadhera reported that in four weeks, the app had been downloaded 1,408 times, 28,000 messages were viewed with over 13,000 app views proving it was not just used on one occasion.
Vadhera told delegates how ranging and merchandising are tailored to the shopper at each individual store.
“Every store is a completely different demographic, locality and consumer,” he said.
Services are also key, he added. His chain offers PayPoint and Collect + parcel collection and delivery and from January 2014 will operate seven post offices within stores.
Local sourcing has been developed for premium stores along with healthy eating and Fairtrade displays.
At the same time, the retailer has responded to the discounter threat and introduced £1 zones in store in both food and non-food.
Ethnic foods – Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Polish – have also been incorporated and ‘get well soon’ ranges at sites close to hospitals.
Vadhera said Nisa membership created a level playing field with access to retail intelligence to understand pricing, for example.
Vadhera told delegates North East Convenience Stores were also “believers in theatre and ambiance”.
It has created cartoon-style, in-store signage based around staff members with “ask us” messaging. Vadhera said it flows through the stores and is a “little bit quirky”.
The retailer also creates its own leaflets, organises events and deals and compares its prices to Tesco Express.
It operates a Big Night In promotion, which changes every three weeks, to promote alcohol or scratch cooking products on gondola ends, for example.
The retailer also makes use of dead space, such as pillars, and dresses them with pictures to be a “little bit different”.
Vadhera said he was looking forward to the arrival of an electronic loyalty card from Nisa.
“Loyalty is such a difficult thing for independents. An electronic scheme will transform the landscape,” he said.
He also called for supplier help and support.
“We are working harder, longer and more innovatively for less margin but don’t write off the independents. We can’t do it without your help,” he said.