Mere’s UK expansion plans are being hampered by supply chain and recruitment challenges.
The opening of the Russian discounter’s second and third UK stores, originally expected this year, has been delayed to next March as it grapples with range gaps.
Three months after opening the first store, in Preston, Mere UK business development manager Aleksandr Chkalov told The Grocer shoppers understood the hard discounter proposition, which has no customer service. However, “it’s not an easy time to provide everything they need”.
“It’s not really working with suppliers right now, with all their problems with transport, drivers and fuel. I have to provide more meals, more meat products.”
Chkalov said an even tougher challenge was finding the right people to grow the buying team because “no one understands” the model, which relies on suppliers delivering directly to stores.
“The most important thing is the right team and recruitment is the hardest task, not only in the UK but all countries.
“We have tried hiring people with lots of experience at other retailers and it’s a problem,” he added. “With their knowledge, it’s difficult to understand our format, to believe it’s real.”
However, he said he was confident progress would accelerate in 2022.
“We’ve just begun to have practical experience in the UK and now know about all the problems and moments we need to manage,” he said.
“We’re going in the right direction. In the first half of next year there will be big changes for our customers. They will see a different vision of our stores with more assortment of products and lower prices. It will be closer to our stores in other regions.”
A new ‘development’ division would be created to find sites for more stores, Chkalov said.