Blueprint for a Cool Country

Ennis Shah says buying a second store was a massive decision for him and he wanted to ensure that he was using proved and tested guidance. “The Blueprints again proved their value. It is a formula that works every time,” he says.

This was Ennis’s first business expansion. His first store is small but he used the Take Home Blueprint there too with “fantastic results”, he says.

“I would recommend all my fellow independents to adhere to the Blueprint principles if they want to extract maximum profit from their off-licence department. The concept is based on brands which people want to buy and there is adequate space allocated for me to buy local favourites and own brands,” says Ennis.

His new convenience store, Cool Country, at Old Trafford in Manchester, opened six months ago after having the full Blueprint treatment for beers and ciders, wines and spirits and ARTDs.

A week prior to the opening, Ross Shelley, director of the Blueprint scheme, and his team went in and merchandised the entire off-licence section.

With help from his wholesaler, Parfetts Cash Carry, Ennis bought all the recommended lines that are featured on the Blueprint planograms so the merchandising team had the complete stock to work with.

“Expanding my business has been a huge thing for me and for all the investment I’ve put in I wanted to have the best possible start at the new shop. That’s why I got the Blueprint in as, for me, it’s a tried and tested formula that works. It’s not a list that’s been made up, it’s based on market leading brands and industry-best advice,” explains Ennis.

“We opened just before Christmas and our alcohol sales exceeded all our expectations – it was the best Christmas I have had and strong sales continued through the traditionally slow period post-Christmas. The impact it has had on sales and the presentation of my store is immense.”

Ennis has found that implementing the Blueprint has changed the way his customers shop. He says: “Our previous shop was very small, but this one is a lot bigger and more spacious so it encourages people to browse and take their time over choosing what they want.

“I’ve noticed that the Blueprint influences people’s buying habits. If they are after a premium lager, they can see all the brands of that strength are blocked in one place and will take their time looking at the entire range and perhaps vary their choice from time to time.

“It’s the same with wine. You find some customers are country-loyal. With the Blueprint, if they want a French wine they can find all the different brands in the one place rather than having them scattered throughout the entire fixture. All my customers have said how easy it is to find what they are looking for just through the labelling provided by the Blueprint. It also makes my life easier when I’m restocking the shelves.”

Ross adds: “It’s great to have a blank canvas to work with and have all the correct stock to hand, so his fixtures were pretty near a perfect replica of the planograms once we had finished. It’s a good balance between the Blueprint- recommended brands and the products he knows sell well locally.

“Before he used the Blueprint in his last store, he used to have just one facing of a product so brands were getting lost but now he understands that key brands are given high recognition through the number of facings so they are easily identifiable and therefore attracting more sales.”

Ennis comments: “The Blueprint has transformed my alcohol sales and has given the new shop the starting boost it needed. From day one, customers have been impressed with the range and layout of the store and it’s helped me to establish myself with a quality reputation to compete with the supermarkets.”

The Take Home Blueprint initiative was launched by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors in 1994. The activity now embraces beers, lagers and ciders, wines, spirits and fortified wines and alcoholic ready to drinks (ARTDs).

This educational scheme guides independent retailers into best practice in product selection and display. Planograms give adequate allocation of space for retailer own choice, local favourites and wholesaler own brands.

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