The Thresher Group launches an assault on the c-store sector next week with the opening of 121 convenience stores in the north-west of England.
Victoria Wine, The Drinks Cabin and Huttons stores will be converted to The Local in the first stage of the rollout of a chain of 600 stores.
Five pilot stores have had sales increases of about 35% and a footfall rise of 40%.
Managing director of Thresher’s drinks division, David Kassler, said there had been talk of the death of the traditional off-licence for years and now the time was ripe to hit back.
Thresher is coming into a strong convenience market, but believes there is room for different players. It is to use its buying clout as the leader in the specialist drinks trade, with over 2,000 stores, to attract customers through strong promotions.
“We are confident we will have a big impact,” said Kassler. “I
think there is scepticism from the c-store sector because it says you cannot succeed in less than 1,200 sq ft. Our stores are 750 sq ft on average but the trials showed rapid increases in sales and our customers seem to like the format.”
Half of each store will be devoted to drinks and half to broader convenience offers, including bread, milk and papers, snacks, chilled foods and ready meals, and DVD rental. A new central stock replenishment system has been implemented to keep availability up and back-up stock down.
Amazingly, said Kassler, the five trial stores showed no drop in drinks sales despite a 50% reduction in space, and he added that the wall of cold beer, wine and soft drinks was extremely popular.
The colourful fascia and interior of The Local and increased range have been designed to get the falling number of customers back into Thresher’s shops at all times of the day.
“Sales of drink in the off-trade have been growing, yet off-licences have been in decline for five years,” said Kassler.
“You look at the supermarkets and wonder how a single category retailer can compete with that power.
“However, we will be the proof that you don’t have to be big to be successful.”
Fiona McLelland