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Makro is wholesaler which only offers its products to its registered cardholding customers. It sells a wide range of food and non-food products and has a nation-wide network of stores across the UK, which are usually located out of town in the major cities. According to its publicity people it is a unique concept, offering a wholesale solution to professional business needs.
The Origins of Makro
SHV Makro was established in Germany in 1964. It was acquired by the Metro Group on 1st January 1998 and currently has 416 outlets in 24 countries operating under the Makro and Metro trade names. Metro Group is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Makro opened its first store in the UK at Eccles, Manchester in 1971 and Makro UK now operates a network of 33 purpose built cash and carry outlets across the country.
What does Makro has to offer?
The success of Makro is based around the concept of bulk buying so most of what you will find in the stores will be either in large multi-packs or in large containers. The food department sells a vast range of products and even has its own unique value for money brand called “aro” The food department does offer real value for money, as most of the items here are zero VAT. This is not however the case with most of the other items where you will need to add 17.5% vat on top the prices before you decide if you are really getting a bargain or not. The food department includes butchery, bakery, fish, rotisserie, fruit and vegetables, frozen food, grocery as well as wines and spirits. The non-food department includes office zone, tech shop, garden centre, fashion, sports, and DIY as well as household goods. All stores have toilets, and a café, both of which are usually located near the entrance.
The Makro Trade card
There is no charge for getting a Makro card but you either have to have your own business or work for a business, which is considered to be suitable with regard to the items sold by Makro. You can obtain an application form from any store or via their website. Once this has been completed a red and black Makro tradecard will be posted out to you within the next few days. When you visit a Makro store you will need to present your card at the check-in desk where the card will be swiped, you will then be asked to sign your name on a piece of paper and the signature on the card will be checked against their records. A cardholder can sign one non-cardholder into the store at any time. But please be warned if you forget your card no amount of begging or pleading will get you into the store. The idea of the Makro trade card is obviously designed to keep out the general public but it does seem that it can be used to make things awkward for the sake of it. I have had problems trying to get access to other stores other than the one where I have registered and on two separate occasions I have been told that my card has been suspended because it has not been activated within the last 3 months. To un-suspend my card I have had to fill in a form at the check in desk.
The Store Itself
Apart from my local store in Sheffield I have only visited the Leeds store, which is almost identical to the Sheffield one. I have however been told that all of their UK stores have an almost identical layout. The layout of the store is very good. As you enter the store there are toilets and the café located near to the check-in desk and turnstile. Beyond the turnstile the store is essentially split into two large stores with the right hand side of the store dedicated to food, groceries and wines and spirits and the left hand side of the store dedicated to non-food items including household goods, electrical goods, books, CD’s, clothing and DIY etc. The aisles are very well spaced out and there is no clutter. However goods are stacked right up to ceiling height and if the product you require is out of arms reach you will need to find a member of staff with one those little fork lift machines. The goods are often not stacked directly above or next to the display item so you need to check the packaging carefully to make sure that you have the correct item.
This is in my opinion not very good, the check-in staff are quite unfriendly and if you require help once within the store it can be a 20 minute task to find someone to help you. If an item is out of stock then the chances are no one will be remotely interested in finding out when it is likely to be back in stock for you.
Is Makro Value for Money?
You need to be very cautious when shopping at Makro as probably around 80% of the goods can be found cheaper elsewhere once you have added on the VAT to the displayed price. I have found identical electrical goods for sale in Curry’s and Comet far cheaper than at Makro and their clothing section is neither cheap nor very modern. There are many high street clothing shops, which offer a far wider range and much better value for money. I used to buy chart CD’s from Makro but now these are cheaper at some supermarkets like ASDA and Tesco so I now I buy them from there. The food section can be quite reasonable if you are able to buy and store in bulk and if you look around for the offers. I often buy my cat food from here purchasing 48 or 96 cans at a time.
In my opinion Makro is far from the unique concept that it claims to be but it is definitely worth an occasional visit. The unfriendly attitude of the staff is possibly just another part of its attempt at exclusivity, but if it is then it fails miserably and definitely has the opposite effect of putting customers off rather than trying to attract them. As a final point I would like to say that my name has been mispelt by a single letter on my Makro trade card and when I receive my Makro Mail obviously the name on that is mispelt also. However I have noted that since this error I am now receiving an increasing amount of junk mail through my letterbox that has my name mispelt the same way and I am sure that this is no coincidence.