If you can’t find a proper job, you can always stack the shelves in Tesco. That is the fallback suggested to many graduates failing to find jobs in the present economic climate. But why is such a vital part of any retail activity considered so demeaning?
I recently visited Bill’s Produce Store in Lewes in East Sussex, which is a revelation in the art of arranging displays of food and drink. Until 2001, Bill Collison ran a greengrocer’s on a corner site in Cliffe High Street in Lewes. When the adjoining shop became available, he knocked through and made a cafe, and then enlarged the premises again into the next shop. What makes the enterprise so successful, is that it has not strayed too far from its grocer roots. The walls are shelved to the ceiling, full to bursting with big bright pink bottles of La Mortuacenne lemonade, and Bill’s own brand of jams, chutneys and sauces. On the floor and tables are baskets of fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers. The whole place sings with colour.
This unique selling point has been replicated in Brighton, followed by Reading, and shortly will see a branch open in St Martin Courtyard, part of the new development in Upper St Martin Lane which already accommodates Jamie’s Italian and Dishoom. This is a bold move, but somehow returning fruit and veg selling to Covent Garden seems appropriate.
What a contrast to my visit last week to the Mount Street Deli. In a premises in the heart of Mayfair, it serves traditional takeaway type items at breakfast and lunch. Postcard Teas are on the shelves and on the menu, which shows an intelligent attention to detail, with coffee freshly ground from Caravan in Exmouth Market. The counter is piled up so high with goods, you can hardly see the staff.
But I am digressing from the main subject of shelves…. which here are only half full. In Mayfair where the rent could be around £100 per square foot, surely every inch of floor space should be maximised, for potential sales. A deli needs to assault you, as you walk in, not only with tempting treats on the counter but also a raft of attractively packaged food products up the walls.
Perhaps Richard Caring, the owner, needs to have a look at Carluccio’s, the company in which he has just realised his 12% stake. Carluccio’s is, like Bill’s, an example of good shopkeeping. It doesn’t require the best university brains to keep the shelves fully stacked. Even a graduate could do it.