A year ago this month, we opened the KQF Superstore in Whallley Range, Blackburn. We promised new investment, new thinking and a new shopping experience. Twelve months have passed since then so now seems like an excellent opportunity to look back and see how much has changed.
Anyone who remembers the superstore as it was when KQF took it over will be aware that the layout has changed considerably. The old covered entrance has been fully glazed and made part of the interior so as to make more room overall. The checkouts themselves were updated earlier in the year and then moved into the newly extended entrance area, so movement around the store has become more fluid and much less cramped.
One of the most important changes came with the appointment of our new store manager and trained staff, whose experience and energy have helped to reshape the way the store looks and operates. KQF team and our managing director, Faruk Vali have introduced all sorts of changes – changes that have led us to win a number of nominations for regional and national business awards. KQF team members are extremely delighted as KQF has been named as the Asian English Business of the Year Award 2014.
Besides the obvious new branding, some of the most noticeable changes include new signage, the introduction of new product ranges and, of course, the new layout, in which there are new aisles with more space for frozen foods and other popular products. We have also introduced a new ‘taster counter’ where customers can sample new or seasonal dishes and get new shopping ideas. Our range of marinated meats has been especially popular in the last few months.
Other changes, though, have been more subtle. For example, customer feedback suggested that some shoppers felt a little intimidated by the old butcher’s counter and its all-male staff so we changed the way it worked. Now, meat preparation and customer service are handled by separate teams, with more female staff making the area feel more friendly and welcoming. This is one example of alterations that have been made as a direct result of talking with customers and asking for their feedback.
Another big improvement, according to customers, was the extension of the opening hours. The store opens earlier and stays open longer – 100 hours every week, in fact – so local people find it easier to fit their shopping around other activities and commitments.
To make sure that we can keep responding to the needs of the local population, we now host regular focus group sessions, giving local people a valuable say in new product development work.
Of course, all of these changes have required a good deal of thought, investment and staff training. The good response to the recruitment of more female staff underscores the importance of effective liaison with customers. To do this effectively, KQF staff have been given intensive training and particular emphasis has been placed on encouraging and maintaining dialogue. The customer focus groups and taster counter are examples of how this is being put into action, but listening to our shoppers is encouraged at every level.
The last year has been a fantastically busy period for all at the KQF Superstore but we don’t plan to tread water next year. For example, we are looking at the feasibility of offering a ‘home shopping’ and local delivery service, and we will continue to talk to customers about our product ranges and opening hours.
If you have ever visited the KQF Superstore and you have any thoughts or suggestions, please do get in touch. We really appreciate all your feedback.