from Tom Fender, MD, Harris International Marketing

Sir; I write concerning Somerfield’s intention to buy 140 of Texaco’s 240 company-owned stores (The Grocer, February 19, p4).

Somerfield brings fresh credibility to the party. Texaco brings snacking and CTN expertise. Fuel brands struggle with fresh food in terms of supply chain, offer and credibility although it is the area driving c-store sector growth more than any other due to our demand for top-up shopping.

Even superstore and supermarket shoppers are there for smaller top-up trips (54%) rather than bigger stocking-up trips (46%), so small format retailers need to excel at top-up.

Somerfield does just this. Shopper ratings for the quality and ratings of fresh foods are comfortably ahead. Four of the five top-selling lines in a Somerfield forecourt are short-life items: milk, bread, chilled and fresh produce.

At Texaco, the top-selling lines are CTN lines. On a like-for-like basis, Somerfield sells chilled products to seven times the proportion of its shoppers compared with Texaco, and bread to five times the proportion of shoppers.

Forecourt shoppers typically visit less frequently than c-store shoppers, mainly because they haven’t got a full fresh offer.

However, shoppers visit Somerfield forecourts three times per week on average, proving forecourts that get fresh right can increase shopper loyalty and the frequency of shopping trips.