Liz Steer Steer Consulting

Says: An enlarged European Union means ethnic diversity in the UK has never been greater. Smaller stores can keep their competitive edge by being faster to react to local demands.

Data is the retailer's key tool - analysing sales and margins can identify the ideal product mix. The 80\20 rule always applies - 80% of sales and profit come from 20% of products. It is critical to know your bestsellers - which may be community-specific - and make sure they are always in stock.

Historic information on core and seasonal lines can be used to forecast sales and purchases. Local festivals, such as Diwali or Passover, offer big sales potential. Last year's history can be used to predict next year, ensuring the optimum stock holding.

Having identified target markets and bestsellers, stores should make shopping easy by grouping products by customer profile. Bestsellers must have adequate facings to avoid missed sales and constant shelf filling is a must. But remember, the best marketing is word-of-mouth referrals. If shopping in your store is a pleasure, the whole local community is a potential customer.

Hitesh Patel Budgens, Virginia Quay

, London

Says The most important factor in meeting the requirements of an ethnic customer is to listen to their needs and gauge their reaction to any new products or ranges - there is no golden rule because it's different for every community.

A system that has been working well for us is initially testing a new range of products on a free-standing fixture, focusing the merchandising on that one fixture and seeing how our customers respond.

If, after a month or so, the products have sold well then we'll start to extend the range and move products over to larger permanent fixtures in our fresh, ambient and frozen sections where appropriate.

Customers will make requests for specific things and it's certainly worth considering any suggestion if you feel there is enough demand for it.

The key is to continually talk to your customers and get to know your community. This will help you identify opportunities for new products that will sell well among your regular customers and encourage occasional shoppers to try something different.

Khalid Hussain Pak Supermarkets

Says: Although many retailers tend to focus on stocking core ethnic products such as spices, rice and flours, retailers should consider opening up their ranges to list more international chilled and frozen products.

Many ethnic products are pre-packed but retailers should think about stocking loose items such as chillies, nuts, spices and olives because they have a novelty factor and allow the customer to pick as much as they need.

The ethnic food that a retailer stocks will obviously depend on their customers. If the store serves an Indian, Pakistani or Polish community more space will be allocated for these products, but this is not the complete solution. Merchandise needs to be visible and have shelf-edge labelling to avoid confusion. Shelves need to be as full as possible and aisles should be kept clear so customers can walk around the store easily.

Retailers need to encourage shoppers to come to their store. This is what we are aiming to do when we open our new supermarket in Birmingham next month. It will include a restaurant, fresh produce, a loyalty card scheme and an in-store bakery.