Store of the Week: Jawoll

I like to think that we document some interesting stores on this blog; occasionally I like to think that we depict some potentially important store concepts too. What is doubtless is that we have presented some rather beautifully designed and merchandised stores.

Sometimes, though, high-growth and disruptive retailers operate stores that are not exactly beautiful. In fact, they can be the very opposite. There has been a lot of coverage of B&M in the UK press over the last week or two. They are growing rapidly and increasing their exposure to, and disruption of, the UK grocery market by opening a ton of new stores and increasing their grocery range to include chilled and frozen in addition to the already copious number of SKUs in ambient, health & beauty, household and alcohol.

B&M has also been named by a number of analysts and journalists as their tip of the year for 2018, highlighted as being set to achieve outperformance in commercial and/or stock market terms. As well as the headroom for growth in the UK (more B&M stores, enlarged grocery range, more Heron stores and the imminent launch of a transactional website), B&M is rapidly expanding in Germany through the Jawoll discount store network that it acquired a few years ago.

With a store estate of around 75 outlets at present, Jawoll will be expanding at a rate of at least 10 stores per year. It will also be benefiting from new management (its new CEO, Christian Mueller, recently joined from Action, the hugely impressive pan-European discounter) as well as improved direct sourcing and an enhanced assortment.

I must confess that I had never heard of, let alone visited, Jawoll until B&M acquired it, but a trip to see my lovely colleagues in Dusseldorf meant that this new dream could become a reality. Jawoll’s heritage is very much in the territory of grey market goods, overruns, surplus from other retailers and other clearance merchandise, but is increasingly becoming more of a traditional retailer with permanent lines and directly-sourced merchandise. An increasing number of SKUs are globally sourced via B&M’s offices in HK and China.

The bulk of the Jawoll offer is made up of general merchandise across a huge array of categories. The fashion offer wasn’t all that bad, much to my surprise, with a smattering of respectable brands alongside heavy metal T-shirts. The footwear range was comprehensive, although merchandising in this area might not be considered best practice.

The homeware, kitchenware and tableware proposition was pretty impressive. A mix of private label (I think) and brands combined to offer different tiers of value and while the merchandising might not have Crate & Barrel fearing for its life, the assortment means that Jawoll is a more than credible destination for those looking to equip their households.

Household and health & beauty were also very decent. The former featured some premium brands in gigantic pack sizes while he latter also included a wide variety of A brands, replete with a number of branded FSDUs.

I must admit that I was surprised by the extent of the Jawoll food offer. Right at the front of the store were massive sacks of items like spuds, onions and apples, while the food department itself was surprisingly sizeable. The back wall of this section was occupied by chilled cabinets housing booze, dairy, meat and seafood with the bulk of the ambient section occupied by pallet displays of cans and jars. There were also a few chest freezers with lines including veg, pizza, desserts and meat & fish. The range of sausages and hotdogs in cans and jars was pleasingly extensive and the inclusion of McDonald’s-branded condiments and a bewildering array of Haribo was a source of great personal joy too.

Other categories around the rest of the spacious and well-signed store included furniture, gardening, motoring and cycling. The check-out process was completed with cheery friendliness and was improved no-end by the inclusion of ice-cream freezers in the check-out area.

It’s easy to be snobby about these types of value-driven stores. I would shop here every week if I could.

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