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Newly opened The Fine Cheese Co. store in London’s ultra smart Belgravia typifies the flexible retail formats that are becoming increasingly visible on high streets across the UK and not just those in the country’s flashier enclaves.

It focuses mainly on cheese – as its name rather obviously suggests – but as well as selling  150-170 varieties of the product it also has seating outside and indoors for 30 people who can simply have a coffee or choose from cheese platters, meats, savoury macaroons, cheese soufflés and caviar etcetera.

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And then there is the wine offer – that encompasses almost 100 bottles priced from £9.50 to £225 and which all accrue the same £12 corkage charge if consumed on the premises. There is also a modest selection of wines by the glass served from kegs held in the store’s basement.

Having only been open eight weeks Ann-Marie Dyas, founder of The Fine Cheese Co., says rather enigmatically: “We can be anything you want us to be. Come into the shop for a coffee, for some food, or wine and cheese.”

Although there is great flexibility in the model she has not just dreamt it all up as it adheres to some of the successful components from her original shop in Bath that she has been running for the past 25 years.

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As for the second store opening after such a long period as a single-unit retailer Dyas says landlord Grosvenor Estates approached her to enter a ‘beauty parade’ for the unit and then upon winning the race they have made it “easy for us” to open the new store.

She expects the shop’s revenues to be split evenly between goods consumed on the premises and take-away – just the same as it is in Bath. But there will inevitably be differences and she has already found the Belgravia clientele are much more international in their cheese tastes than Bath where there is a greater demand for local UK varieties.

The Fine Cheese Co. is not just a hybrid with its store format because it also has an extremely strong wholesale business supplying 800 delis, restaurants and hotels around the country. In addition, it also owns a bakery that produces its unique selection of crackers for cheese that runs to 50 different varieties, with the range constantly evolving.

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Despite the undoubted quality of the cheese offer Dyas acknowledges that it is the crackers that have made the name of The Fine Cheese Co. and which are now stocked in 600 retail outlets.

Having unique products and multiple strings to the bow, as well as interesting hybrid-type store formats, looks to be increasingly important as differentiators in the retail sector and when combined will likely determine success in the future.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider