The evolution of discount stores from their original roots of selling extremely narrow ranges of largely private label items in stores that could be generously described as austere continues apace. As a lot of the focus inevitably falls on the global discount titans Aldi and Lidl, it is often easy to overlook the progress of other major discounters such as Biedronka, Dia and Penny.

Dia, once part of the Carrefour empire, has proven particularly versatile in its home Spanish market, arguably one of the most competitive grocery markets around. As well the juggernaut market leader Mercadona to contend with, Dia finds itself up against a wide variety of other world-class competitors like Carrefour, El Corte Ingles, Auchan, Eroski, Lidl and Aldi.

Against this cut-throat backdrop, Dia has been continually innovating, both in terms of its store operations and its marketing endeavours. The Dia loyalty card, with 20 million active members and over 75% sales penetration, is a hugely successful venture and its transformation into Spain’s most popular retail app – with nearly a million downloads – has enabled the company to really finesse and personalise its communications with its shoppers, leading to a much more successful promotional strategy.

In addition to operating various iterations of its core discount operations (Dia, Dia Fresh and Dia Maxi) it has also branched out into drugstores (Clarel), supermarkets (La Plaza de Dia) and e-commerce (achieving a 10% market share in 2017). 2018 saw the introduction of a new convenience format in the discount stable, with Dia & Go opening a handful of stores across major cities including Madrid and Barcelona.

I was lucky enough to take a look at a brand-new store in Barcelona last week – and pretty impressive it was too. It differed from a regular Dia store in a number of key way. The outlet was packed with features such as chilled wine and beer, a strong Snacks & Go food to go section, a serviced deli counter, instore bakery, fresh orange juice machine and a coffee machine. Thanks to its large footprint, the store was spacious and benefited from the installation of some good-looking fixtures compared to a regular Dia store.

The store had some nice touches in terms of display, with several bits of decent cross-merchandising: wine alongside charcuterie; soft drinks with bakery; and savoury snacks alongside chilled drinks. I also liked the evident mindfulness of shopper missions, a nice example being the provision of miniature health & beauty products alongside impulse items at the front of the store as well as a full range of health & beauty at the rear.

The bakery cabinets, complete with signage that detailed the seven times a day when baking took place, looked very good at the front of the store alongside the coffee machine, providing a solution for shoppers after a bit of breakfast. The produce range, while hardly a thing of beauty, was more than adequate and accompanied an extensive general grocery range across chilled, ambient and frozen, creating an overall proposition that could cater for good-sized top-up shops as well as smaller convenience baskets.

There were a couple of notable highlights in terms of private label, the first being an incredibly striking fixture devoted to the Delicious premium private label range of food and drink. The second was a bay of organic and free from lines that had been sourced through Dia’s France-based partner Groupe Casino – a pleasing example of cross-border retailer collaboration resulting in an improved outcome for the shopper.

Considering Dia is a global discount store specialist, this stab at convenience retailing is very good indeed. An impressive new concept that should do well.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director

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