Stans Superstore in the village of St Martins, near Oswestry in Shropshire, is used to coming to the rescue of customers needing a specific product or a distress purchase. But even it was surprised when superhero Bananaman entered its doors to buy the bananas needed to restore his superpowers.
The family-owned store saved the day in the pages of the 2006 edition of The Dandy annual, thanks to comic writer and artist Steve Bright, who regularly shops at the outlet. But if the annual had gone to press a little later, it would have shown Bananaman flying into a store branded Stans and Nisa-Today’s, as the 23,000 sq ft supermarket is the second to carry the buying group’s new co-branded fascia.
Robert Faulks, son of founder Stan and partner in the business with brother Peter and nephew Andrew, says the long relationship with Nisa-Today’s has been central to the store’s success, so the decision to adopt the co-branded fascia was a no-brainer.
Under the terms of co-branding, members guarantee a minimum 75% supply agreement from Nisa-Today’s Central Distribution Services (CDS) and in return an additional rebate of 0.5% is payable on all CDS volumes, except cigarettes and spirits. This is held in Nisa-Today’s symbol group development fund and used solely for store development purposes.
Stans, number 42 in The Grocer Top 50 independent list last year with a turnover of £13.5m, launched the fascia in December with new exterior signage and banners highlighting its range and services. New window graphics have been installed, as have perimeter boards and hanging banners defining product areas. On-shelf signage also features the co-branding.
When Stan opened a fish-and-chip outlet on the site in 1947, little did he realise nearly 60 years later the very same site would sell 24,000 lines and comprise a full grocery offer, non food, coffee shop, florist, photo booth and cash machine as well as selling 80,000 litres of petrol a week on average.
The new fascia marks the biggest change in 14 years, but the store has undergone constant updating over the years, helping Stans survive despite Sainsbury, Tesco, Asda, Somerfield, Aldi and Kwik Save all being within driving distance. In fact, when Sainsbury opened in Oswestry, the effect was a mere 1% hit over 12 months. Store manager Justin Smart says: “We can fight back thanks to our customer service and range. We are willing to stock what people ask for. We don’t stick rigidly to a set range but will try stuff if customers request it.”
The result of this organic growth is a number of different areas in the shop, including a conservatory where seasonal and non food goods are sold. From February to September, it is filled with gardening products.
There is an impressive BWS area, an extensive fresh department and a delicatessen and expanding chilled area.
Non food has been identified as another key area of future growth, accounting for 7.5% of sales at the moment.
But instead of keeping all non food in one area, Stans has spread it out across the store, tempting customers with keen prices.
“If we had the space we could sell more,” explains Smart. “We have dipped into white goods and done well. For example, we had 22 washing machines at £169 and sold out within two days. The more services we offer, the more we can stop people going into town.”
While Nisa-Today’s delivers the bulk of ambient, chilled and frozen foods, local products are an important part of the offer and make up about a third of the offering. These include locally supplied meats, pies, eggs, milk, bread, fruit and vegetables, cakes, beers, wines and spirits - including what is claimed to be the most northerly produced red wine. In some cases these local products are highlighted on shelf, such as the meats from Embreys of Bishop’s Castle.
Stans believes its latest look will help it to address its biggest challenge - increasing footfall. Once someone visits, they invariably come back. So while Stans serves the many large villages within a six-mile catchment, it also pulls customers in from Wrexham and even from as far afield as Nantwich, some 30 miles away, at weekends.
As Andrew Faulks says: “We are a large shop competing against the multiples, but with corner shop service.”