BBC Radio 4 – You & Yours

05 January 2012


Last week I appeared on You and Yours on BBC Radio 4 to talk about the opportunity for regional supermarkets. The discussion centred around whether a gap in the market exists for a collection of smaller, regional chains such as Booths – servicing local markets with an alternative food offer and shopping experience.

I am certainly not one to bash the national supermarkets, I think they deliver what many customers want – convenience and value for money. Their sales continue to grow in this tough economic climate while less competitive retail operators struggle. But I do think there is an opportunity for smaller, independent operators to grow their market share by providing a genuine alternative – both in food choice and shopping experience.

The romantic view is to return to an age of a collection of small, independent shops on the high street such as the grocer, butcher, baker etc. This has its place, but we also need to be realistic and accept that most people don’t shop like this and never will. For the vast majority of people convenience is the primary motivator when choosing where to buy food. Therefore food retailers need to give customers what they want.

Booths is an excellent example of a food retailer delivering a convenient shopping experience (just like a supermarket), but doing it a little differently. Their shops are smaller and more attractive, their food offer reflects the cultural identity and heritage of the area, and their staff are friendly and welcoming. This makes for a different shopping experience that many customers value.

I accept that it will be almost impossible for a collection regional supermarket chains such as Booths to spring up overnight, but there is definitely an opportunity for the many excellent independent farm shops and delicatessens around the country to expand into new premises and even begin retailing online.