Winner McLeish, Inverurie
Chilled Retailer of the Year 2016
Sponsored by: Kerryfresh, Scotty Brand and McIntosh of Strathmore
Size: 1500 sq ft – Symbol: KeyStore Staff: 20 including several school pupils and students on Saturday or evening hours – Hours: 06.00 – 21.00 Monday – Saturday; 09.00 – 21.00 Sunday.
• Scott had worked with the original McLeish chain of premium delis. When that company went into administration he made an offer for the Inverurie site which is in his home area.
• He launched the new McLeish store just over seven years ago and maintained aspects of the old deli operation but also added a full c-store range and service.
• Since then the store has become very well known for its food to go and for its policy of extensive local sourcing.
• Scott and the store have won several awards in recent years. As well as taking the Chilled Retailer of the Year title at the Scottish Grocer Awards 2016 McLeish was also named Independent Retailer of the Year.
BACK in 2009, after the biggest financial crash for generations, Scott Graham knew he was taking a risk when he launched his new hybrid c-store and deli – McLeish in Inverurie.
But since that time he has built it into a store that has won Scottish and UK awards and one which has built a formidable reputation for food to go, chilled foods and local sourcing.
And all of those things were important to McLeish, Inverurie being named Scottish Grocer Chilled Retailer of the Year 2016, an award category run in conjunction with a collection of chilled food specialists Kerryfresh, Scotty Brand and Mcintosh of Strathmore.
Scott had worked with the old McLeish chain of deli-led food and drink stores that had grown fast and had promised a great deal only to be one of the businesses caught in the fierce credit squeeze that started in 2008.
He took on the unit in his home area of Inverurie aiming to keep hold of much of the character of McLeish, which had stressed high-quality fresh food, including food to go and ready meals, but he grafted on a standard c-store offer too.
In the last couple of years food to go, fresh produce and local produce have all become even more important. There are two main reasons – it’s profitable and it gives the store a significant point of difference.
One of the first things to notice is that at McLeish fresh and chilled products are merchandised in several sites across the shop.
Prepared food to go, made in the store, is immediately to the left as the shopper enters, the well-filled chiller forms the right hand side of the shop’s first aisle and it faces out to the main shop window. Intended to be visible immediately on entry, and to passers by outside, it’s one of the stars of the McLeish show.
The main chilled fixture is on the back wall and takes up more than six metres, a substantial portion of what is a very carefully laid out 1500 sq ft shop.
And there’s the deli counter itself in the far corner, diagonally opposite the entrance.
In many ways the deli area is the heart of the food-to-go operation. It’s where staff combine the roles of selling hot food, making sandwiches and other foods to order and, crucially, preparing the foods that fill the food-to-go chiller at the front.
Work starts in the deli area half an hour before opening at 5.30am. When the doors do open and the staff have bacon and sausage rolls coming off the hotplate the preparation sequence also begins, running to a well-prepared pattern.
“The first job in the morning is salad boxes and that normally takes until about nine o’clock,” Scott explained.
“At nine the sandwiches are started and that takes until about 11 o’clock. Then they prep all the veg for next day, at midday they’ll start making the fillings for next day.
“At about one o’clock they’ll go out to the food-to-go fixture and write another sandwich list. Those will be made up and they’ll replenish the fixture.”
That replenishment takes place at around 2pm – a time, he suggested, when many other stores are winding food to go down. But there is demand at McLeish right up until closing at 9pm.
The fact that the food is made on site is one major point of difference but there are others, not least, said Scott, a real commitment to quality.
“The bread in the sandwiches is a Cuisine de France product and we pay a bit more for it. It’s thicker than you’d get on your standard sandwich.”
The local baker supplies the store with soft baguettes and various rolls and the shop has been testing a pack that contains two mini rolls with different fillings. It has done very well and will be continued throughout the year. Bagels on the other hand were tried but didn’t catch on.
The fillings are made in store using core elements like cubed chicken and tuna supplied by Fife Creamery. But other ingredients including rich sauces and mayonnaise are specially sourced premium lines.
He’s sure they make a major difference, build a reputation for quality and encourage repeat business.
The main chiller fixture includes a metre for milk and another for yogurts and cheeses. In both those sections there are the products you would expect but very deliberately there are also more unusual premium lines including some organic products and brands like Nomad and Canny Drinks. Many of the main market brands and some of the unusual ones are sourced through Kerryfresh. And McLeish also uses Epicureum for a number of premium chilled and ambient lines.
Ready meals provided by local butcher Bert Fowlie are given their own section. And goods from local supplier Davidsons also feature, including a number of lines that are merchandised as part of the store’s food-to-go range.
And in a major development that started recently a bay is given over to the products of Aberdeen butcher Haigs. With a reputation for quality, tie-ins to the system used by Scottish Slimmers and a simple pick and mix offer for three items for £10, including whole chickens, the products have been selling fast.
Fresh fruit and veg is provided by a supplier in nearby Turriff and hugely popular in-season berries come from a farm three miles away. Starting at Wimbledon fortnight they’re being merchandised alongside cream in a Wisemans-supplied small display unit at the till point.
That will mean the store has four key chilled food display areas and a chilled drinks section. It also mixes mainstream brands and a range of premium products.
Scott reckons things have come together very well in recent weeks. After years of constant incremental improvement the store’s blend of quality, variety and highly-regarded local produce is making him feel pretty chilled.