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Food Shops. Everyone needs them, everyone uses one. Heron Frozen Foods, as they were known until recently, are predominantly northern with their base in and around Hull. I am lucky in that I can find at least 5 within a 10 mile radius. For those who are lucky, other branches further afield from Hull, that I know of, include Bridlington, Scarborough, Mablethorpe, Skegness, Grimsby, Spalding, Lincoln and around Greater Manchester. I will not try to bore with all locations! An example of a heron store can be found on www.shopatashton.co.uk/heron. Thanks to this resource for telling me that there are at least 116 Heron branches out there!
The Store -------------
Based on my local store in Barton, most stores follow the same format. Although they stock great branded items at low prices, the stores are based on postage stamps. If you were to stand in the middle of the aisle, an average built person will be able to touch both freezers with elbows slightly bent! Above the rows of freezers, shelves are stacked with other grocery items including cereal, pet food and toilet rolls. You see, you could top up your main shop here as it is not ALL frozen produce. Bread, Milk, Cooked Meats, and Cheese including one of my favourites, Wensleydale with cranberries! A basic layout gives freezers meeting you as you walk in, and around the perimeter walls, with chillers for the cooked meats and milk along the rear walls. Bread is stocked near the milk on shelves. And more freezers and shelve in the middle of the store.
With the recent laws regarding disability access, I have to devote a small part to this. Most Heron stores I have encountered are not wheelchair friendly. As described above, some would have difficulty if someone tried to swing the preverbial cat! The Barton store does have a flat entrance with a wide turning circle. But, for example, the Ashby store has a step and the Bridlington store has its entrance on an angle to the pavement. With Invalid scooter use on the increase, Heron must try to become user friendly as it is very difficult, even if the shop is fairly empty, for an independant wheelchair user to get around without any help.
Range of Products --------------------------
A good range of produce can be found, and in this day of convenience food, if you are in a hurry, each freezer has a general heading above it with what it contains. For example, Potato Products, Ready Meals, Poultry. If I can find my way around these general headings, everyone can! Interspersed between the freezers, Heron have cunningly slotted wire baskets containing sweets such as chocolate bars and boiled sweets. It has to be said though, that low prices does come at a price. Some ranges are limited and 'When they are gone, they are gone' lines. Prices reflect this and, if liked, you could be in for a long wait for fresh stock!
Price examples ---------------------
Branded products can be obtained for slightly les than RRP, though most popular ones are just a few pence different. They do have a range that are not branded and have plain labels. The small print reveals that these have been packaged for Heron. In my opinion, they taste no different to branded. Is it my tastebuds, or just tight fistedness in keeping my money in my wallet! Just lately, Foxs Mints and Foxs Liquorice and Aniseed Sweets could be snapped up for 59p a bag.
Customer Service -------------------------
Friendly staff, who will go out of their way to help. Well, in most cases that happens! Most stores only have two tills so at busy times, queues do form.
They do not operate a saving stamp scheme so you have to save the hard way if you intend to buy the Christmas Turkey. But, they have just installed facilities to take debit cards. And of course, they take old fashioned cash! Although it is legal tender, due to increased forgeries, they say, Heron do not accept any Scottish Banknotes.
So to sum up, Heron pick postage stamp sites, fill them with as many freezers and shelves as possible, install two tills to cope with ever increasing queues, are not very wheelchair friendly (but we live in hope!), have a good range to choose from even if some of them do not re-appear!
If you are lucky to find a branch near you and have not been inside, wander around, you will be pleasantly surprised!
Thanks for reading - ( I must waffle after a while, sorry!)
Thanks for telling about the Heron shops. I'm not in the North but do have friends living up that way so who knows next time I travel that way may just shop at Heron! I like to save pennies too! (saved loads after I discovered European supermarkets like Aldi/Lidl, lol) -CH
MAFARRIMOND 05.11.2004 10:24
Unfortunately there isn't a branch close by. Maureen
djdarko 05.11.2004 09:31
Very good review about a place I've never heard of. Personally I would rather stick to my current supermarket, but useful info for anyone looking to try something else! All the best, Martin.