Pal Singh with his son Michael

I am over the moon with it. What we’ve got now is the perfect store

Pal Singh (pictured with his son Michael)

When the opportunity arose for Pal Singh and his son Michael to move from their small newsagent on a parade in a Wolverhampton suburb to a derelict pub nearby, they envisioned opening a standard c-store majoring on alcohol.

Instead, they became the first in the country to trial Booker’s new discount-led convenience fascia - Family Shopper. Since November, they’ve been offering the best of hard and soft discounting trimmed down for the convenience sector. The 2,100 sq ft store stocks 1,100 grocery lines as opposed to the 3,000 a c-store of its size normally would. It also offers 500 non-food lines, no duplicates, lots of own label, PMPs wherever possible, and 75% of the products are on promotion.

“We’re not taking on Poundland, Aldi or Lidl,” says Steve Fox, sales director for retail at Booker. “We’ve taken the best from them and are learning from it. We’re mixing what other retailers do well, pulling both hard and soft discounters together.”

There’s evidence all over the store, with an aisle of £1 non-food - everything from stationery to DIY - that would sit comfortably in a Poundland. At the back of the store there’s a large frozen section with PMPs, just like Iceland. What sets it apart, Fox argues, is the alcohol section - something single-price variety discounters have typically struggled with because of the price points. wine at Family Shopper is either £3, £4 or £5.

Something else the soft discounters would struggle with is its good/better/best pricing structure. It stocks Booker’s value range Euro Shopper for ‘good’, its mid-tier range Happy Shopper for ‘better’, and branded lines for ‘best’. Unlike most c-stores, however, it’s the value ranges that command the best position on shelf. Euro Shopper lines are at eye level, while the brands are relegated to the lower shelves. The value message is also enforced by ‘Hot Deals’, round-pound in-store signage, blocks of own-label lines and shelf-barkers that shout ‘Amazing Value’. Outside, posters flagging up bread, milk and sugar - at their permanent £1 price points - are prominently displayed.

Booker gave the Singhs a sales target of £20,000 a week. In its first week, the store did just over £20,000 and is now averaging sales of more than £30,000 a week on margins of around 24% and an average basket spend of £6.50. “I was worried it wouldn’t work,” admits Pal Singh. “I was concerned about selling fruit and vegetables because of the wastage and because I hadn’t sold them before. And I didn’t think I’d be able to achieve the margins I wanted selling value lines.”

He’s not worried anymore. Since opening, 30 new lines have been added, including babyfood. Singh says he is “constantly” surprised by the success of the non-food aisle, which turns over around £1,000 a week with margins of 40%, but he’s pleased with the whole store. “I am over the moon with it. What we’ve got now is the perfect store. I’m now looking at rolling it out to another three stores across the Black Country.”

Booker plans to start offering out the fascia to other retailers from next month. Former P&H marketing director Richard Hayhoe was also appointed last month to lead the format’s growth and development. “I’m really excited to be working on a new format that is very different to anything else,” he says. “We’re hoping a lot more retailers will come on board.”

Given the success of the Singhs’ store, they will probably be champing at the bit.