So I was very pleased to get an invitation to the launch evening of their latest store at Media City in Salford. I think this is their first venture into Manchester, and, besides the impressive set-up generally, it was interesting to see how Booths had adapted their range to what they see as the rather different market in a big city, and also that of the influx of media types, notably the numerous BBC employees who've been exiled up north. In fact it seemed to me that the second largest group of people attending the launch evening were, to judge from their lanyards, BBC employees. The largest group of people there seemed to me to be all the "suits" from Booths themselves, who were largely hunting in packs, keeping together for safety. It made me think they probably don't get out into the stores much to meet customers!
Indeed, the best thing I overheard all night was a Mr Booth asking another Mr Booth why he kept looking at his watch. Mr Booth was simply wondering "how much longer I have to keep being nice to people"!
|A string quartet from the BBC Philharmonic battled bravely against the general hubbub|
The Media City branch of Booths has a very airy feel. Look up and it feels a bit industrial, but keep your eyes at well, umm .. eye level, and it feels very modern and open, though not especially large. It is, however, unusually for any sort of supermarket, on two floors. I wonder how that will work: will customers really go up and down stairs (or the lift) to continue their shopping?
The produce on show was all extremely high quality, some even higher quality than I'm accustomed to in Booths, though of course it's entirely natural that they're out to impress. The display of various wild mushrooms in the greengrocery selection particularly caught my eye. Ascrofts were offering some delicious tasters of a sort salad of golden beetroot and lentils that Booths should definitely think about selling ready made.
Some shelves (bakery notably) were still empty, which is entirely reasonable as the store wasn't opening until the next morning. It did make me laugh that some of the empty shelves had stocking plans on them marked "strictly confidential"!! Probably not a good idea to leave them out when you've invited hundreds of members of the public and press.
Butchery and fishmonger counters were very striking, though not especially large. Lots of beautiful looking fish and especially shellfish, with representatives from Neve's, the Fleetwood-based fishmongers on hand for this event. Thinking back to when Selfridges first opened in Manchester city centre, they too had an impressive fish counter, but that was very quickly cut back before disappearing entirely. It will be interesting to see if Booths can maintain the impressive range they had on show at this launch event.
The meats on display were just as impressive, if not more so. Some beautiful looking National Trust beef, cornfed ducks and chicken from Reg Johnson of Goosnargh, salt marsh lamb, and most notably of all, some amazing-looking British rose veal, of which there were various cuts, all beautifully butchered. Again, I really hope they can keep up these standards. It would also be nice to see the veal being offered in other stores, as it's a meat that isn't at all easy to find, even in our excellent local butchers.
The meat and fish counters seemed a bit small, and clearly stocked with the premium end of their respective produce. I also thought the deli and cheese counters were also quite small, the cheese in particular feeling very cosmopolitan, and indeed Booths' cheese buyer confirmed to me that they had deliberately gone for the higher end here.
|Mr Kirkham (of Mrs Kirkham's) behind the cheese counter|
By contrast the 'ready meal' fridges seemed to occupy more space proportionately than in other Booths stores. I don't know if that's really the case, though that's how it felt. Interestingly all these fridges have doors to keep down energy consumption, which can only be a good idea.
The BWS (beers, wines, spirits) section is upstairs and definitely felt both larger and more spacious than in many other branches, though interestingly did not seem to have the same really premium wines and champagnes that I've seen in, e.g. the Windermere store, in the past.
The worst thing was actually finding the place. Not a problem if you work at Media City, but until Google Maps and satnavs get updated, it's not obvious. In particular, once you've found it, finding a way into the Booths car park is far from obvious, as it seems protected by more no-entry signs than is surely necessary!