Credit to Stelios. He was born into wealth. But instead of bumming around on yachts, like so many playboys, he has applied himself repeatedly - and in the case of EasyJet brilliantly - to wealth creation and entrepreneurship.
Yet his record otherwise isn’t great. And while I hesitate to write off his chances with EasyFoodstore at such an early stage (a trial store will open in November, The Grocer has learned), I can see even more flaws in his initial plans than I did at EasyCinema, his no-frills cinema concept that famously stripped out the popcorn, hotdogs and pick’n’ mix - the only revenue stream from which cinemas actually make money.
Even the initial premise behind EasyFoodstore is a non-sequitur - “sparked by recent press stories covering the widespread use of food banks by the needy”. If someone is so poor they rely on food banks, cheaper tins of baked beans won’t make any difference.
” EasyFoodstore? Sounds like a dystopian vision from 1970s East Germany”
Adam Leyland, Editor
That’s not to say a no-frills, pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap approach can’t work, as the recent success of discounters and pound shops has proved. But a 100-product offer isn’t enough. Aldi, the UK’s fastest-growing ‘limited assortment’ discounter, has grown partly by extending its range from a historic benchmark of 700 to around 1,400 lines, which gives it so much more scope to respond to modern consumer needs. And modern is the very last thing EasyFoodstore sounds like: it will sell a bunch of nondescript, tertiary brand, ambient tinned and packaged goods. It sounds like a dystopian vision from 1970s East Germany or the Soviet Union.
Above all, there’s the issue of scale. As a ‘remainder’-based, grey goods business, EasyFoodstore could grow like other fixed price and variety discounters (notably Poundland and 99p Stores) have done. But these pound shops are yet more plugs in the crammed space in which he’s spotted his so-called gap in the market and, even if they don’t enjoy the scale of Aldi and Lidl, now have significant buyer power. If Sir Stelios were serious about building a food retail business, he would be better off buying one of them. He can afford to, as well.