Celtic Tiger: the Danish variety retailer prepares for Glasgow store opening
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If you follow my tweets you’ll know that I’ve spent the middle part of this week in Glasgow, taking time to explore the Ayrshire coast as well as the brilliant, fascinating, bustling city itself. While I love the sophistication of Edinburgh, Glasgow has a warmth, heart and grit that reminds me of Tyneside.
There’s enough retail stuff going on in Glasgow to fill several months of blogs, but I was particularly interested to come across a soon-to-open branch of the Danish variety retailer Tiger at 159-163 Sauchiehall Street, which was getting ready to launch next week (Thursday 29 November). Compared to the thriving and more upmarket Buchanan Street, Sauchiehall Street does have the air of a thoroughfare whose best days are behind it, but there’s no doubt that Tiger has chosen a decent spot: a corner site that used to house a branch of Barratts shoes, next to Waterstones and opposite one of the city centre’s two big Marks & Spencer stores.
I have to confess that I wasn’t very familiar with the company until I read John Ryan’s Retail Week review of the new Brighton store earlier this month, partly due to the fact that its 18 English shops – the first of which, in Basingstoke, launched in June 2005 – are concentrated in the South East of England.
It’s a growing business, however: in Scotland (which Tiger, perhaps prematurely, treats as a different country to the ‘UK’, with a separate website and Facebook page), Glasgow will be the third shop, following on from branches in Livingston (opened in March) and Dunfermline, while the 180-strong chain also has stores across 14 other European countries and Japan.
As far as the retail offer is concerned, Tiger’s websites make the business sound rather like a hybrid of Clas Ohlson, the Ikea Market Hall, and Poundworld’s Discount UK format. Colourful and low-priced homewares, kids’ products, stationery, party goods and other everyday essentials feature strongly, while the whole enterprise seems to feature the typically Scandinavian blend of simplicity, usefulness and fun that characterises both the Ikea and Clas Ohlson brands.
Of course, even with 21 stores across England and Scotland, Tiger will be a relative minnow within the crowded post-Woolies variety store space.
In the last couple of years, lack of scale or the wrong product mix has seen off several Woolworths pretenders, including the 17-strong Alworths chain, the four-store Hub business set up by Poundworld co-founder Dave Dodd, and even the celebrated Wellchester, which closed down earlier this year following the departure of its manager Claire Robertson. It’s no coincidence that the space vacated by these and others has often been mopped up by the big and aggressively expanding variety players: Poundstretcher picking up the bulk of Alworths’ sites, 99p Stores and Poundland moving into ex-Hub locations, and Poundland also now trading from the ex-Wellchester spot in Dorchester’s South Street.
With all this going on, can Tiger find its footing and niche? It’s certainly possible. At just 2,674 sq ft, the new Glasgow branch is about an eighth of the size of a typical Clas Ohlson store, and is smaller than all but a handful of the 807 ex-Woolworths sites, many of which have provided fuel for Poundland, Poundworld, B&M and others to grow.
However, the Glasgow shop sits exactly within the 2,200 sq ft to 3,500 sq ft size bracket that Tiger is targeting for its UK (and Scotland) expansion. This untypical space requirement compared to its competitors should allow Tiger to easily snap up units vacated by collapsed chains such as Clintons and Game, while its dense but visually appealing merchandising model is well placed to generate decent sales per square foot. Mix all this with the Scandinavian style that UK consumers seem to like, as well as decent buying power across its expanding global estate, and there’s a sense that Tiger may well have a distinctive and viable positioning within the competitive but lucrative UK market.
As is often the case with overseas retailers entering Britain, Tiger’s focus on opening stores in Scotland or within a 100-mile radius of London suggests that it may be a while before we see the brand making an appearance here in the North. However, with Clas Ohlson seemingly (but probably wisely) putting its UK store openings on pause to focus on building up its brand awareness and e-commerce operation, I can see that Tiger may yet become my new favourite Scandinavian shop.
My retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, provides bespoke place- and sector-specific market intelligence, including coverage of both Scotland and variety store retailing. It also works with retailers nationwide to improve their stores, customer communications and market knowledge. For more information, visit www.cannyinsights.com, drop me an email, or give me a call on (0191) 461 0361.