How General Stores Became a Destination for Popular Independent Brands and Healthier Lines

General Stores Image 1 Retail Unit

You can’t think about independent retail in Manchester without thinking about General Stores. The six-store chain stretches from the city’s student and foodie-focussed Ancoats neighbourhood, the busy professional hive of MediaCity, to the terraced houses of Moss Side. In 2021, the team opened their most aspirational and daring site yet – a 3,000sq ft store built in the heart of Deansgate Square – a set of four skyscrapers – homes for Manchester’s wealthiest.

Despite catering for very different customers, what unites General Stores is a focus on providing an exceptional shopping experience. The shops are always light, clean, and airy, filled with plants, dark woods and shiny aluminium surfaces that create a cool, calming, and aspirational environment. In General Stores, you’ll find all the bestselling convenience brands you’d expect, but you’ll also find new and fast-growing brands from challenger names, such as Candy Kittens, Graze and Nocco, that are shaking up their respective categories.

The business’s mantra, “I only came for milk”, underlines the team’s approach to ranging. General Stores makes no secret of its attempts to tempt the shopper and entice them to spend more with products they may not have seen before. Whether it’s imported tastes from around the world, or collaborations with other businesses in Manchester’s vibrant food scene, General Stores is redefining what independent convenience retailing can look like.

Epicurium has been a supplier of General Stores for years, providing the business with a range of healthier snacks and drinks that complement the business’s unique range. “They have a great selection of lines that help us with our USP,” says owner Mital Morar. “They’ve got a good, consistent delivery service and we’ve seen them consistently grow over the years. They’re clearly onto something with their ranging.”

Stocking Epicurium bestsellers

How General Stores Became a Destination for Popular Independent Brands and Healthier Lines - image

General Stores stocks more than 30 brands from Epicurium, earning an average margin across the range of 31%. Despite the higher margins available on challenger brands, Mital warns against pricing customers out. “While there is an opportunity for higher prices, these can create a barrier for consumers. Driving margin isn’t always the right route for winning loyalty.”

Looking at all names bought from Epicurium, the top two bestselling ones for General Stores are Huel and Barebells – two protein-focussed brands, popular among the young and physically active. While Huel is General Store’s bestselling brand from Epicurium by some margin, Barebells Cookies & Cream is the business’s top-selling line – a huge 240 bars sold across the estate in just one month in July.

Tony’s Chocolonely is the third best – its Dark Almond impulse variety leading the way, followed by Choc Caramel in both singles and sharing. Popchips comes in at fourth, with UFIT protein shakes completing the top five.

“When you’re a destination for new products, the name of the game is stability,” says Mital. “We value consistent suppliers who can make sure our shelves stay full and help us avoid disappointing our customers.”

Creating brand partnerships

With a strong range of lines in stock, Mital and the team are looking to go one step further. “We’re looking at running bigger activations and partnerships with brands from September. We want to go on a journey with a brand.”

“We want suppliers to come to us and bring activities alive in store to create interest. We know we’ve got the right customer base for many of these upcoming brands, but we need them to help us drive interest. For example, at Deansgate we’ve got huge windows, like a Selfridges. We’re working with local artists to create unmissable pieces with brands.”

Above and beyond

General Stores is pushing the boundaries of convenience retailing and creating profitable supplier/retailer relationships that raise the bar for their customers. “We know our customers come to us for a special experience, so we are more likely to list brands that help us offer this,” says Mital.

The plan for General Stores is to continue to develop their range, treading the delicate balance between offering new and exciting products, without alienating customers. Mital warns retailers to avoid going too specialist in their ranging, stating that you can offer interesting products without leaning too heavily on trending diets. “We’ve realised most people just want regular products. If you can offer interesting brands without going too far into niche diets, then you’re onto a winner.”

At Epicurium we’re proud to support a forward-thinking and market-leading business as General Stores and are looking forward to seeing their future success.

Ordering Best Selling Products With Epicurium

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