Last year, Bolton-based Greenhalgh’s set in motion ambitious plans to rebrand and expand its retail estate. Production director, David Smart explains that traditional bakeries like Greenhalgh’s are facing increasingly tough competition from modern fast food chains and cafés, such as Starbucks and Caffè Nero, making modernisation and product innovation essential.

"The fast food or ’food-on-the-hoof’ sector of the market is extremely competitive today," says Smart. "We have seen the rise of many new chains and brands." A major element of their strong branding has been the format of their outlets, with strong distinctive styling and modern, contemporary fittings. This has meant that those food outlets that have not updated, or have been around for a while, have dated rather quickly. Through its rebranding, Greenhalgh’s is attempting to bring the concept of a craft bakery into the 21st century. This is fitting for two reasons, he says. "Firstly, we have always strived to produce food that is made not in the cheapest or fastest way, but in the right way - for goodness and taste. Our use of natural ingredients is suddenly finding itself in favour again and today’s consumer is looking for quality and value rather than low cost. Secondly, our new brand and shop format is our way of simplifying the presentation of products to our customers. In a way, we are simply saying: ’We are Greenhalgh’s and this is our food: natural quality and good honest value’."

The company enlisted a professional design consultant to create the new Greenhalgh’s identity, with a brief to ’create an image that appealed to the modern shopper and as broad a customer base as possible’. The consultant was asked to come up with a design to suit the existing typical shop size - a single- or double-fronted shop - while also ensuring the design incorporated the original elements of all Greenhalgh’s shops: freshly baked and chilled serving counters, display shelving for breads, open-fronted pick-up chillers as well as a new illuminated savoury display window, plus a colour scheme and shop banner that reflected the new corporate rebranding. The budget was set at around £70,000 per store, where a complete overhaul was required, Smart reveals.

The results include a new corporate logo, which shows the company’s commitment towards modernisation, says Smart. The old green backdrop has been axed in favour of a deep, warm, more refined green to highlight the ’irresistibly better baking’ catchphrase and contemporary logo design. Elsewhere in the store, other catchphrases, such as ’ at first bite’ and ’...good honest food’, are used.

The colour scheme was chosen from a number of frontage images produced and shown to the company directors and members of staff for comment and discussion. "The interior finishes were then selected to complement the external design and internal layout. The objective was to select a stylish, modern scheme to complement the quality products that the company produces and to attract today’s shoppers," says Greenhalgh’s chief engineer John Hurst.

New shops are showcasing the new branding, which incorporates several elements (see panel, above right), including a 15-20% increase in chiller space. So far, five new-look shops have launched. Three older stores have had a £70,000 "blitz", including new tiles and flooring, according to Smart, and a further two dated stores have been refreshed.

Smart says customers have been enthusiastic about the transformation. "Our first shop to be overhauled was in Bolton and people have reacted positively and with surprise to the new image," he says. "Although recognition is not instantaneous, it still happens quickly, and I would surmise that this is because of the Greenhalgh’s name taking up a greater portion of the banner."

The contemporary image has already caught the attention of younger customers. "A promotional campaign during Oldham’s opening week helped to establish buoyant sales, which have settled slightly but nevertheless have established Greenhalgh’s in a new territory," says Smart. "Our Newport Street shop, which is our fifth in Bolton’s town centre, is expected to fit in quickly because Bolton is a heartland territory for Greenhalgh’s. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of 12-25-year-olds in our new shops."

Meanwhile, the work goes on. Greenhalgh’s plans to overhaul at least four more shops in the first quarter of this year, and around five acquisitions are planned for 2007. As Smart says: "We have to get on with it, we have a lot to get through!"