I reckon I’ve now visited 16 of the major Dutch food retailers, which means there is about six or seven left to go, which might necessitate hiring a car and exploring the east of the country. The latest box ticked was Vomar which I managed to pop into on a trip to Amsterdam last week. They are a home-grown discount supermarket business that trade in the country’s north-west peninsular and are slowly spreading in a southerly direction, meaning that stores are now cropping up more often in the Amsterdam area.

With just shy of 70 stores, they are by no means a massive business, but as part of the Superunie buying organisation they are able to capitalise on national scale and efficiency in order to deliver exceptionally competitive prices (a recent claim put them at 14% cheaper than market leader Albert Heijn).

A lot of Vomar’s credibility on the price front is built on myriad efficiencies throughout the business. With its own centralised bakery and meat processing plant located at the retailer’s single major DC in Alkmaar, Vomar is able to efficiently service its store network without ceding costs or margin to third parties. Ongoing expansion might necessitate the opening of a second DC before too long, but for the time being this highly centralised approach seems to be working well.

Other cost savings were evident in the store that I visited: no-frills design and kit; LED lighting virtually throughout; closed chiller and freezer units; and centrally printed POS and pricing.

In terms of how this EDLP approach presents itself to the shopper, Vomar states that it will match any non-promotional price from competitors and also supplements its low base pricing with a limited range of price reductions and multibuys across the store. Superunie’s Gwoon private label is used to complement brands and provide a value alternative for budget-conscious shoppers.

Claiming low prices is by no means unique in the Dutch market, with Aldi, Lidl and Dirk also leading on value, so issues like quality and service come to the fore too, and this is where Vomar’s three customer promises come into their own.

Well-communicated throughout the store, Vomar promises the Lowest Prices, the Best Quality and the Fastest Service. The quality angle is covered off with a no-quibble refund policy while the service proposition is backed up with a highly convincing pledge: if any customer is fourth in the queue, they will get their groceries for free. This is a bit more compelling than the assertion from other retailers around the world that they will open more checkouts if the store’s a bit busy.

This overall offer from Vomar seems to be resonating with Dutch shoppers: the company has been the fastest-growing food retailer in the country for two years, with like-for-like growth of 7.3% in 2018 on the back of 6.4% in 2018. With further store openings planned for the next year to two, Vomar looks set to continue its strong run of growth.

In terms of the store itself, I must confess that I was pleasantly surprised. Produce was a nice introduction: plenty of informative signage, wooden fixtures and some pleasant lighting meant that an extensive assortment was merchandised solidly. There were plenty of nods towards local sourcing and I was also taken by the canvas / metal frame signage that was used to clearly demarcate various categories.

Although they lacked some of the impact of the offer from larger supermarkets due to a lack of loose product, clearly no surprise in a discount environment, categories like deli, meat and cheese were done well and I was also pretty impressed with the bakery section.

The rest of the store – including a fine Haribo assortment and some great price points on beer and wine – was well organised, merchandised and maintained and the staff were working hard to keep things looking shipshape and getting punters through the checkouts in a timely manner.

Vomar is by no means the most beautiful retailer on earth, but I was very convinced by their winning combination of range, quality, price, service and Haribo all wrapped up in a very cheerful store design. I look forward to visiting again.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director

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