Makeover makes most of store

11 January, 2008

Expert advice shows how easy it is to get more out of existing premises. Christine Boggis reports

Last year Keswick-based convenience store and beer specialist Open All Hours won a design consultation with strategic branding and creative design company WPA Pinfold in an OLN competition.

Myles Pinfold, managing director of the consultancy, travelled to the Lake District to talk to owners Alan and Heather Dunn about their business, their goals, and what they could achieve with a strategic redesign.

What Myles said

Alan and Heather are a lovely couple and make a great retail team. They take customer care to the level that puts all the multiples to shame - they know the names of all their regular customers, and take a genuine interest in them.

The shop is a success and is obviously profitable - so why change?

For Alan there is an opportunity to develop his pet interest - speciality beers. For Heather there is an opportunity to create a more comfortable and invigorating environment.

Open All Hours is currently a dichotomy between the regular convenience trade of grocery essentials and distress purchases, versus the desire to experience regional, locally sourced produce and beers. Alan and Heather can maximise on both ends of the market by careful space planning and zoning.

An important factor to be taken into consideration is that space is very tight. The main retail area can possibly gain up to 10 per cent more shelf space by careful planning, but the back stockroom is woefully inadequate and it is struggling to cope with the existing throughput. There is only one way forward to further develop the business and this is through added value:

Regional produce - Heather has already started to introduce this, but it is random and not perceived by customers as a serious proposition. She should make this a central feature of the store by creating a regional produce zone, while rationalising the commodity products at the rear of the store (for instance, only one main branded range of teabags, not two at similar price points, is required in a convenience store).

Beer shop - Alan should exploit his love of speciality beers and make a feature of his beer shop (especially the local breweries and beers) and create it as a visitor experience - with the added aim of having it featured in the local tourist information centres. Tasting notes and brewery profiles should be presented alongside the beers and he should aim to feature a brewery or beer of the month, with a special price promotion. This can be extended into the wine section which is already quite extensive. The spirits should be consolidated into a standard, value-led range and a connoisseurs' collection.

His personalised beer bottle business is another example of Alan's entrepreneurial spirit . However, this will work better on the web, with a wider and more receptive market, than in the shop itself.

From a presentation aspect, zoning is key with clear demarcation and space planning around customer footfall - commodity at the rear of the store, to draw customers in, and added value in the main impulse areas. To make all

these changes work and ensure they are attracting the right customers, it is important for Alan and Heather to adopt a cohesive brand and communications strategy:

Brand - the Open All Hours name is part of their humour, but a bit of personalisation would add to the charm, with Alan and Heather's names added to the shop name. The addition of a Beer Shop sub-brand will give credence to the speciality beers offer.

Internal signage and POS - this needs to be clear and functional to maximise impact and ensure the customer shopping experience is easy and stress-free. Materials and style of communication should enhance the offers and reinforce provenance.

Marketing communications - apart from the local press and letterbox drops, to maintain year-round local customers they should also target the numerous tourist venues , and use their "beer experience" as a reason to be featured in the local TICs and bedroom browsers.

Website - it is important to have a simple and clearly defined website . This can be used to develop a mail -order business around the speciality beers and link this to a personalised beers site. Google ads are a potentially cost-effective way to direct customers to the site.

Corporate social responsibility - this is becoming more important to consumers and Alan is already involved in local charity work - he should incorporate this into the shop. And local produce certainly ticks the right boxes in terms of food miles.

What Alan said

I haven't yet implemented anything from it - anything there would be a major project.

There are some minor things that could be done pretty simply - I might do the beer shop signage, and the regional produce element could be brought in just because there is a lot of local stuff that we could use, especially beers.

It has definitely got potential, but whether I will get around to doing it or not is a different matter. It looks very bright and colourful and nice but I'm not in the market at the moment to spend a lot of money on a refurb.

WPA Pinfold is a strategic branding and creative design consultancy with more than 25 years' experience. The consultancy works in a diverse range of market sectors, including retail design, corporate brand identity, marketing communications, digital media and brand packaging.

Open All Hours - facts and figures

Type of store: Convenience with a big beer, wine and spirits selection

Owners: Alan and Heather Dunn

Location: A street just off the main shopping area in Keswick, Cumbria, in the heart of the Lake District

Length of tenure: 25 years in the same street, 12 years in this shop

Turnover: Peaks at around £23,000 in summer and dips to £12,000 in January

Turnover split: 60 per cent alcohol and tobacco, 40 per cent everything else

Key competitors: Booths, Spar, a new forecourt store in a nearby estate

Space: 20x40sq ft with a small stockroom

Opening hours: 8am-10pm

Sales split: Store takes twice as much from 6-10pm as it does from 8am-6pm

Till system: Recently installed E pos and Booker scanning service

Security: CCTV

Security issues: Not much room for queueing, which means some pilfering can take place when queues form

Key point of difference: Extensive beer range, including many local ales. OLN Beer Retailer of the Year 2006 & 2007

Cheapest beer: Carling 8x44cl, £5.50

Most expensive beer: Thomas Hardy's Ale 25cl, £3.50

Cheapest wine: JP Chenet two for £7

Most expensive wine: Lanson Black Label £19.99

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