The mixed fortunes of The Grocer’s Ones to Watch for 2005 present a telling snapshot of both the opportunities and major hurdles facing small companies as they try to carve out a niche in grocery.
However, the year is ending on a positive note for our four chosen retailers. FishWorks goes from strength to strength in its bid to restore the fishmongers to the high street; Love Saves the Day is having another go after going into administration; Out of This World is celebrating the opening of a new store and planning its next; while Off the Vine is ready to expand after a tough year.
FishWorks, the chain of fishmongers-cum-restaurants, is the undisputed star this year. It has added two new stores and is making strong progress in its quest to grow its store portfolio to 19 within the next two years. FishWorks outlined this plan in May following its float on the AIM stock exchange to raise funds for expansion.
Chief executive Roy Morris says that the company is close to completing its eighth store in Richmond, south London. The store is due to open in March and Morris hopes to reach double figures by the end of the summer with two further developments.
Love Saves the Day is set to reopen its Deansgate store in Manchester next week, and the grand opening is a great relief to co-owner Beckie Joyce.
Joyce says that the past four months have been the most difficult she has had to endure after Love Saves the Day went into administration in October. However, she says that she was determined not to let that be the end of the story. “Basically we had to make a decision quickly as to whether we wanted to let all the efforts of the team over the last few years go to waste. And of course we didn’t,” she explains.
The new store will stock much more home-made produce and Joyce has also launched a new concept
called Love at Home which she describes as like an Ann Summers party, only with food.
Jon Walker, general manager of Out of this World, expects 2006 to be a significant and exciting year for the organic chain.Last month, it opened a new store in Gosforth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, replacing the Creative Consumer Co-operatives’ first supermarket, opened in the same area ten years ago. But at 3,000 sq ft it is twice the size of the original store. The board has also just given the green light for a fourth store in York, which at 4,000 sq ft will be the group’s biggest to date. Walker says that the decision to expand operations and the size of the new stores reflect confidence in its business model as well as consumer demand for organic and fairly traded goods.
Walker explains: “It is now possible to do a complete week’s shop in a store like ours. We have now established ourselves as a real, substantial, ethical alternative to the modern faceless supermarket giants.”
The York store is due to open by June and Walker says that Out of this World will be monitoring how the two new stores develop before rushing into further expansion plans. The group’s fingers were burnt when its store in Bristol was forced to close within a year of its opening. However, he is confident that there will be further opportunities to expand across the north of England.
It takes a brave soul to venture into the world of off-licences, in the wake of the collapse of Unwins, but entrepreneurs Morgan Hay and Piers Hamilton are determined to make their mark.
With Off the Vine, the pair, who gave up their jobs as directors at Thresher, have had a rollercoaster ride in the first two years of trading. Having originally opened three stores, Off the Vine shut its doors in St Albans after less than a year. Hay explains that the small store was not suitable to the needs of the business, and having worked out what works and what doesn’t, Off the Vine is ready to expand once again. Hay suggests a new store could be in the pipeline for spring, bringing store numbers back up to three.