from Karl McKeever, brand director, Visual Thinking

Sir; re: ‘The great non-food gamble’ (September 20, p44).

I couldn’t help wondering how many food-focused retail chains really understand how to achieve financial success from selling additional product categories.

When shopping for general merchandise, consumer confidence comes not just from the products themselves, but just as importantly from how they feel about the brand and shopping experience. It’s the delivery of the proposition through visual merchandising and customer services instore that is the critical success factor.

Supermarkets have historically had poor non-food retail operations, with standards of presentation and service far below their grocery categories. This often stems from a lack of knowledge, experience and recognition of the significance of these softer elements coming from within their historic, aggressive food cultures.

In most cases non-food products are unplanned purchases and require a selling environment which really
engages with the consumer through easy shopping with a balance of inspiration, ideas and information. Above all, both the desirability and value of ranges must be promoted effectively to draw sales from high street rivals and capitalise on convenience.

With all major supermarkets now having credible non-food departments, where will consumers decide to shop? In my experience, they will choose the stores that offer the best overall value and this will increasingly be judged on more than just low prices . What’s also needed is great product presentation standards and customer service to match the high street if they really want long term sales success.