The Kwiksave brand has been resurrected in Bolton. John Ryan visits and assesses the latest incarnation.

Even for those not blessed with long memories, the name Kwiksave remains redolent of a few things and most of them are not positive. Kwiksave, in its previous incarnation, disappeared from UK high streets in 2007 after having struggled along with stores that seemed to be regularly performing the incredible shrinking stock show. Sadly, the lasting legacy for many Kwiksave devotees will be of lacklustre, unloved value retail stores that shoppers might have visited if there really was nothing else around and they were in a hurry to buy something basic.

Time has a habit of softening the memory, however, and there are probably even those who look back on the days of the old Kwiksave with a degree of nostalgia. For those in the Bolton suburb of Little Lever, however, recollections of how things used to be have changed. Kwiksave is back and it’s quite unlike its former self.

A convenient truth

Arriving in Little Lever, the first noticeable thing is that this is a location where convenience store culture is alive and well. A stone’s throw from the new Kwiksave are a Nisa Today and Tesco Metro, and the area is predominantly residential. There are no big shops to speak of – perfect territory therefore for the ‘popping down the shop’ consumer who needs a mid-week top-up or to grab something for the evening meal at a low price.

No surprise then that the newly arrived Kwiksave is in fact not that new. Until a month ago, this was a Premier convenience outlet, which majored on a value-led offer. The problem, according to Kwiksave franchisee and store director Bhavesh Parekh, was one of supply: “We weren’t getting the support [from our wholesaler]. The range was very bleak and availability was only around 60% to 70%.”

Following discussions with Costcutter Supermarkets (and it’s worth noting there is a Costcutter store less than a mile down the road) Parekh and his father took the decision to become the standard bearer for a revitalised Kwiksave.

Costcutter owns the Kwiksave name and had been looking for a franchisee who would be prepared to take the risk of running a store with a name whose brand values might seem a little tarnished.

Yet, the first reaction, standing outside this 3,000 sq ft value store, is that it could be another company. Yes, the name Kwiksave is certainly there, but this is not the white-on-red Kwiksave logo of old. In its place is a white storefront with a lot of glass and lighting that enables customers to see into the interior.

That is thanks to a policy of not having point-of-sale overkill, but more of this later. For the moment, it’s worth dwelling on the new Kwiksave logo on the store exterior. Rather than the somewhat 1970s blocky feel of the old sign, there is a more up-to-date version with a shopping basket incorporated as an extension of the ‘v’ in Kwiksave. It’s not complex and was designed in-house, but does the job of recalling the name without being too closely associated with the former Kwiksave brand.

Formed to function

Now step inside and things are pretty functional. One of the hallmarks of a convenience-cum-value retail operation tends to be that it’s frequently hard to see the stock owing to the blizzard of cardboard signage occupying every available space. Not so in Kwiksave Little Lever – this is a space that is immediately straightforward to ‘read’ as the only signage that has been included is that which is necessary to communicate the product categories and to reinforce the value message.

The aisles in this shop are at right angles to the windows along the front, meaning that each has a fair amount of natural daylight. Costcutter spokesman Simon Brown says this is the outcome of working with consultancy Design4Retail, which produces CAD drawings of how a space might look following a Kwiksave makeover and what the franchisee is likely to get for a specific capital outlay. It’s worth noting that prior to its 10-day refurbishment, the aisles in this store ran in parallel to the window-line, which would have made this a particularly dull and uninviting interior once you got beyond the entrance.

The orientation of the aisles notwithstanding, this is a standard supermarket layout – fresh fruit and veg at one end, and booze alley as the shopping journey reaches its conclusion prior to heading for the checkouts. Parekh says that in its previous incarnation the single aisle of chest freezer units was twice its current size and that ambient and fresh food tended to take something of a back seat in consequence.

Now, while there is certainly frozen food, pizzas and suchlike, the emphasis has shifted and the impression is one of greater variety. And so to the tills, fitted out in red and white with a black carpet emblazoned with the Kwiksave name on it directly in front of them. It’s a clean and crisp execution. Brown comments: “Just because it’s a value offer shouldn’t mean that you have to compromise in terms of being able to offer a pleasant shopping environment.” Quite so, and it’s now perfectly possible to wander round this (lone) Kwiksave outpost, with its white colour scheme, new flooring and easily navigated offer and feel good about doing so.

A big tick in the box too for the area directly inside the front door which has been left for dump bins, allowing promotional flexibility. This is usually the worst area of any value store as it’s been rifled through and not had the sort of attention that it perhaps merits. In Kwiksave Little Lever, all is shop shape.

When the store reopened following its refit, a fortnight ago, a number of potential franchisees came along to see what had been achieved for the £70,000 overall expenditure. Brown says that the next Kwiksave branch is due to be announced imminently and that it will be in Scotland.

Overall, this is a value retail experience, but it is a good one and Little Lever’s residents are the better for what Parekh and Costcutter have managed to achieve with what looked like a moribund brand. Only one mild quibble. Signs that say ‘cereals’, ‘fruit & veg’ and ‘chilled drinks’ with neatly merchandised products beneath them are fine. Putting ‘butchery’ above the fresh meat chiller however creates a singularly violent image. But this is only a mild nitpick and if there were more stores like this locally, value shopping would improve. Oh yes, and Parekh says that stock availability is now running at around the 90% mark, which should make things more straightforward for him and Little Lever’s shoppers.

Kwiksave, Little Lever, Bolton

Address 21 Market Street, Little Lever, Bolton, BL3 1HH

Kwiksave brand Owned by Costcutter Supermarkets Group

Store 3,000 sq ft

Store layout Design4Retail

Opened May 11

Kwiksave convenience model A franchise operation