There’s been a spate of new fascia launches and symbol spruce-ups in independent retail recently. But this isn’t just about jazzy paint jobs. Beneath the sparkling new signs seismic shifts are going on

Convenience retail has embarked on a massive transformation. The number of retailers unveiling shiny new fascias and store formats has multiplied over the past few months - so much so that it feels as though more have than haven’t had a makeover.

In May, Costcutter raised the Kwik Save fascia above a c-store for the first time, signalling the beginning of its move into a three-tier fascia strategy that also saw the unveiling of its first myCostcutter in July. Also last month, Cash & carry giant AG Parfett & Sons Scotmid launched new fascia Go Local Extra and this month, Scotmid Co-operative unveiled a new livery for a flagship Edinburgh store. It’s now mulling multiple fascia launches.

So why the sudden fascia-off - and are the changes just skin deep or have they prompted a more fundamental rethink of store formats and layouts?


Launched: July Stores: 2

Costcutter’s bid to stand up to M&S and Waitrose in the world of convenience began in Aberdeenshire in July. The MyCostcutter features a premium look, category management in greater partnership with suppliers and a boosted local range. Since the opening, a second store has opened in Northern Ireland and Costcutter says two more are in the pipeline. Revamps are co-funded by retailers and Costcutter.

Much of what is now happening to store fronts reflects what has been going on for some time inside, as retailers try to tailor their offers to particular demographics and locations. C-store retailers are also being forced to raise their games to compete with the multiples, which is why many of the new fascias feature similar visual cues of freshness and value.

As well as sharing a penchant for the lower case and a tendency to avoid spaces between words (see ‘golocalextra’ and ‘myCostcutter’), the fascias also use strikingly similar colours to connote which end of the value spectrum they inhabit: Kwik Save and Go Local Extra stick to primary colours and white while myCostcutter and Scotmid’s new fascia - in Edinburgh’s well-to-do Warrender Park area - use black and green to suggest more premium propositions.

“Gone are the days when shoppers are happy to go into poorly run, poorly merchandised stores”

Ian Bishop, Costcutter

“The Warrender Park store is very much focused on the premium,” explains Kimberley Guthrie, marketing director at Scotmid Co-op. “This store fits with the profile of customers up there. The competition is independent fishmongers and bakers, a few of the Edinburgh chains and the multiples - ie. Sainsbury’s. This store has more of independent, aspirational feel.”

The launch of MyCostcutter - “an M&S me-too”, Costcutter marketing director Ian Bishop unashamedly admits - reflects Costcutter’s desire to break into the premium end, while Kwik Save is being targeted at more value-oriented locations. In the wake of the revamp of its white Costcutter fascia at a store near Leeds, the group is also looking to roll out the new look across its core estate.

Scotmid Co-op’s new look

Launched August Stores: 1

The fiercely independent Scotmid Co-op has never used the green fascia of The Co-operative Group. The curtain was lifted on this new-look store in Edinburgh’s well-to-do Warrender Park two weeks ago. The hope is that it will enable it to compete with local bakeries, butchers and fishmongers with a wealth of local produce, and fend off the mults by communicating Scotmid’s heritage and value for money. It is looking for other stores to revamp.

“It’s all about location,” he says. “There’s no point putting a beautiful premium MyCostcutter in a low demographic. That’d be perfect for a Kwik Save. It’s about having the right product for the right retailer in the right area.”

One size certainly doesn’t fit all. That’s why Scotmid won’t put a figure on how many of its 200-strong c-store estate will be converted to the new black and green livery. Neither will it be drawn on what other formats it might be considering.

“Our customer segmentation and customer research dictates that there’ll be different formats,” says Guthrie. “How many at this stage I wouldn’t want to comment on. environment has a big, big part to play in whether or not consumers are happy to shop somewhere.”

“Unaffiliated independent retailers are in decline. We need to give them a position of strength”

Andy Whitworth, Parfetts

Of course, aesthetic changes to store exteriors would be pointless if there weren’t also changes going on inside. Just as fascias have been adapted to local demographics, so too have layout and merchandising, largely in response to the challenge posed by the big four.

“The greatest thing the multiples ever did to this sector is force retailers to add professionalism and discipline to their stores,” says Bishop. “Gone are the days when shoppers are happy to go into poorly run, poorly merchandised stores.”

All the new fascias share evidence of a close eye to layout and product ranges to suit local tastes. MyCostcutter supplements products sourced through Nisa with local ranges, for instance, and Guthrie says Scotmid Warrender Park has benefited from a dramatic redesign. Parfetts’ two trial Go Local Extras also illustrate how symbol groups are becoming more focused on how retailers present, merchandise and tailor their stores (see above).

Go Local Extra

Launched: July Stores: 2

One of the two stores trialling Parfetts new venture into symbol retailing claims he has witnessed a 23% increase in weekly takings since signing up. The group requires retailers to sign up to a strong promotional campaign in partnership with suppliers and have regular support from Parfetts in terms of merchandising, layout and PoS. Both stores are markedly different. The first, in a council estate, is geared to compete with Lidl and Tesco, while the other is in a more affluent area and boasts an in-store bakery.

The motives are clear. “The unaffiliated independent retailers we deal with are in decline,” says Andy Whitworth, Parfetts head of customer development. “We need to give them a position of strength.”

It seems to be working. Sales are up considerably at the Go Local Extras (by 23% at one, according to the shopkeeper) and although it is too early to quantify the success of myCostcutter and the new Scotmid fascia, weekly sales at the first Kwik Save - in Bolton - have climbed from £18k to an average of £35k, says Bishop.

The revamps are set to continue, he adds. “One of the biggest problems we have is protecting our brand,” says Bishop. “We have some bloody good retailers and we have some that aren’t so good. They’re bringing down the rest.”

Poor performers, you’ve been warned.