Independents need hyper speed to out run the retail giants

What does a value chain expert know about the future for the independent grocer? Not much when it comes to the front end other than service is key; my local grocer knows me by name, suggests new products for me to try, he is always smiling and guess what? It worked.  

I visit independents on a regular basis and it always surprises me, whether it is Pritt-stick or some obscure seasoning for cooking, two stores later there it is and normally at a regular price, when I was willing to pay ten times its price to avoid a delay or trip to a bigger retailer. I often wonder therefore how much analytics gets done on what sells and what to stock. 

The smart things an independent can do is change SKU’s quickly and be far more responsive than a retailer, range reviews are not an annual event, there is no significant risk to delisting SKU’s that are not achieving expected sales. On the flipside, they need to be leading the charge on innovation, a product can be put on the shelf and trialled again with little risk, the independents should use the mantra ‘win big or lose quick’.  

Supermarkets carry multiple brands; take milk for an example, where there are likely 20-30 variants of what is essentially milk from the same cow on the shelf with a different label, each carrying a risk of going out of life. Simplifying the brand portfolio to minimise waste and maximise sales per unit could be how the independent can compete. 

In addition to that, independents should look at the supply chain they operate in and collaborate where it makes sense. Big suppliers have no interest in working with just one independent and in tern that independent has little interest in being part of a bigger group, but perhaps they could still collaborate with other local stores to minimise.  

The independent needs to be a turbo charged supermarket, using its agile position to be all the things a retailer cannot. One of these attributes could be acting as a ‘chameleon’ meaning collaboration could stretch further and independents could partner with big retailers to trial products for them and even stock their private label product. With the retailers own brand growing in trust, to compete the independent sources a cheap product internationally, but sales do not follow. It might be smart for both the retailers and independents to explore this relationship. Woolworths Macro brand would surely be an ideal brand for the local wholesome grocer to be stocking. In Hong Kong, packnshop stock Waitrose essential products which retail at a 375% premium to the UK price. 

Paul Eastwood; CEO & Founder – Pollen Consulting Group