Retail’s New Frontier; Changing Sizes and trialling new formats

Most people know that Tesco’s started as a market stall and so their large, out-of-town superstores (their biggest being 84,000 sq ft) and being open 24/7 is a huge transformation. Then there’s online shopping, click and collect and in-store services to think of, retail has come a very long way. Retailers are now fiercely competing to build strong relationships with consumers and fighting for their discretionary income. They’re providing flagship designs for roll-out prices and so the natural progression for cost-cutting while rent creeps up is trialling smaller formats. And there’s a lot of evidence to show that it is working. Here are some examples we like that are working, and later on in the article, we’ll suggest some thinking about why it won’t always work.

IKEA – first small store in Kings Mall Hammersmith, aims to bring IKEA to the masses, opened early 2022, just 4,600 square feet and in a new mall that has also just opened. The store only sells home accessories. Adapting to new shopping habits driven by consumers. However, they’re taking over Topshop’s flagship location on Oxford Circus, due to open in Autumn 2023. Their Tottenham Court Road ‘style studio’ shut recently and we surmise this experiment didn’t prove a successful one.

Spar, reported in November 2022, is trying an urban, transient store format, 1000 square feet with a strong focus on ‘food for now, rather than food for later’. In October 2022, Spar announced it would invest £122m into its supply chain and stores over the next 12 months including store acquisitions, refits, new lorries and warehousing facilities.

Premier tried a new format earlier this year at 600 square feet which focused this format on fresh and chilled products as well as food to go, vaping and premium spirits and included a Post Office. Likewise, Nisa is trying to open 40 stores this year at around 1000 sq ft.

ASDA have bought 132 Co-op stores this year, calling them ASDA Express, their first stores are in Sutton Coldfield and Tottenham Hale, size unconfirmed, due to open before Christmas. Their goal as a business is to be the UK’s second-largest supermarket and establishing a presence in the fast-growing convenience sector will be key to gaining that success.

Homebase has been opening small shop-in-shops in Tesco stores, which was reported in March 2021. These Tesco stores will sell products such as outdoor furniture, garden decorations, fire pits and lanterns and will also offer click-and-collect. They have previously partnered with Next which saw eight Homebase Garden Centres open within Next stores and we wait to see how these newer formats perform.

Little Dobbies, a convenience-sized Dobbies store, are popping up around the UK. In Cheltenham a ‘Little Dobbies’ is set to open in early 2023 in a former Gap store, selling their convenience store offer of house plants, pots and decorations i.e. easy to transport items. Their other smaller concept stores are in Bristol, Edinburgh and around London.


There have been other retailers too, naturally, but these are the biggest and latest ones we read about, and with High Streets creating more mixed-use spaces, the wheels of retail keep turning and retailers are trying to keep updated with consumer-driven behaviours. We believe that town centres and village centres need these anchor supermarket brand names to remain places to visit for the essentials. It’s good for independent retailers and service retail stores. We are seeing DIY and Gardening products trickled into supermarkets allowing supermarkets to grow in market share by having a broader product range, competing head-on with the likes of Amazon.