The A to W of Scottish Food Retailing

Today sees the opening of the 4th Waitrose store in Scotland and the largest so far. The fourth store, at Newton Mearns represents another step forward for the company in Scotland and further competition for retailers already in the market. With its strong brand and highly positive reputation, plus its pretty aggressive expansion recently (which is likely to continue), Waitrose has been one of the food success stories of the last few years.

At the other end of the sector,  the most recent market share figures show that Aldi, amongst other discounters, including Lidl, have performed strongly in recent months, with a resurgence in market share.  Whilst their performance has fluctuated over the recessionary period of the last couple of years, there seems to be a new consumer willingness to recognise their price credentials.

With the current concerns over the state of the economy, consumer confidence and retail inflation, price is a major feature of food stores, whether through promotions or general positioning. Even Waitrose owe some of their success to their Essential Waitrose range introduced a couple of years ago, and aimed at reducing their high price perception whilst maintaining their quality reputation. Aldi redesigned some of their brands a few years ago to make them appear more familiar to UK consumers and look higher quality.

So do we have polarisation in the market? or more of a pick’n’mix? With the middle ground being nibbled at from both ends, and the desire of many retailers for better coverage of Scotland (Waitrose for one is not sticking at four stores), the market may well get even tougher in the next few years. Standing out in this market and gaining consumer confidence and loyalty will be ever more vital.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
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