Dennis and Linda Williams’ Broadway Premier certainly has star quality, as Gaelle Walker finds out on a tour of the store

After almost 30 years in the game it's no surprise that the words of wisdom imparted by dynamic husband and wife duo Dennis and Linda Williams are so highly prized by their fellow retailers.

And the fact that their pearls of advice are delivered in such an eloquent and direct manner also makes them a journalist's dream, which explains why the Williams' name appears so regularly in print and on the airwaves.

In fact, when C-Store visited their Broadway Premier store in Edinburgh in September, the pair were being filmed by BBC Scotland delivering one perfectly chiselled sound-bite after another on the Scottish government's plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol. And judging from the thorny tone of Linda's voice, and slightly fearful expression in the young reporter's eyes, she wasn't best pleased with the idea.

So, with all those years of experience under their belts, and their various positions at the local council, community centre, SGF board and Premier Development Group, you'd think that the dynamic duo's star couldn't shine any brighter.

In fact, the pair have recently completed a £35,000 refit of their 1,600sq ft Premier store, including an upgrade to the new concept, an exercise which much to their delight has helped them to achieve an 11.4% increase in sales since this time last year.

"Despite everything that we did, trade was starting to become stale at the end of last year and we even had to let a member of staff go," explains Linda. "We knew we needed to do something to reignite the business, but we weren't thinking on such a vast scale at first," she explains.

But vast it has been. Shelving and ranging have been transformed entirely and a new flagstone floor laid which, despite the bold yellow and purple Premier fascia outside, gives the store a farm-shop feel. The outlet has been redesigned around its four key destination points news and mags, fresh and chilled, grocery, and impulse and through working more closely with suppliers and the Premier team.

The range has also been totally remastered. "We now stock all 500 of Premier's Retail Best Sellers which we have complemented with top-selling local lines including haggis, the Scottish Tablet sweet and, of course, Buckfast tonic wine," adds Dennis.

The pair have also worked closely with Cadbury to come up with a confectionery display and planogram exclusive to their store. "We cut out 40% of our original range, including most of the cheap single kiddies' products such as little lollies and so on," explains Linda. The pair moved large sharing bags on to the main fixture to make them more of an impulse purchase, a fact which has resulted in a 30% increase in sales.

"It's been great to work so closely with our suppliers," says Linda, who expects to see more such improvements over coming months.

"Suppliers are working harder than ever before to do things that will benefit the whole category, and not just their products," explains Linda. "The days of exclusive manufacturer chillers are long gone. They no longer have control over how their products are priced or merchandised in the supermarkets and they recognised that convenience stores are their new big opportunity."

"We don't get passing trade, which means that we have to take good care of our local cutomers" Dennis Williams
And with value still a huge concern for shoppers North of the border, Linda and Dennis have added a large Euroshopper range at the very front of the store, two promotional bays and various £1 zones. "Trade is up since the refit, but the economic climate is still dire and people around here really are struggling to make ends meet. It's particularly noticeable at the end of the month when trade almost fizzles out. It picks up rapidly in the first week of a new month when people have been paid."

And Dennis and Linda have come up with a couple of ingenious ways of boosting basket spend when those newly cash-rich shoppers pop in. "One tiny trick which has turned up really positive results was re-hinging the entrance door," laughs Dennis. "Re-hinging it on the right-hand side of the frame subconsciously pushes shoppers into the main body of the store where all the promotions are, and few people can resist them." Haggis for £1 who could possibly not be tempted by that?

Another bright idea was to put small trolleys at the entrance of the store. "In addition to being of great help to our elderly shoppers who cannot carry a basket, the trolleys also boost the impression that this is a large store with a serious grocery offer," points out Linda.

The store's feeling of space was also maximized by widening the aisles. "We have a huge amount of very elderly customers and before the refit some of the old ladies with walking aides used to struggle to pass each other in the aisles. Now you can get a walking frame, trolley or wheelchair through with no problem."

Dennis and Linda had to raise the shelving units in order to not lose out on shelving space, but say that contrary to their initial fears, this has not increased pilfering. "Shelving might be higher, but the wide aisles make you feel more observed," adds Linda. "As a result shoplifting has actually fallen, although we have got someone stealing coffee at the moment. We will catch whoever it is and, when we do, they'll be banned. You can't be a soft touch on things like that."

Just a few minutes in the company of the Williams is enough to realise that the term "soft touch" could only very rarely be applied to them. Their bullish determination saw them reverse government plans to close the local post office last summer, and the pair campaigned tirelessly against the Scottish ban on tobacco display, making waves and bold headlines along the way.

But there is one area where they aren't so much soft as downright fluffy. And that's with their aforementioned elderly shoppers.

Shop profile
Broadway Convenience Store (Premier) Edinburgh 

Store Size: 1,600sq ft 

Established: 1983 

Staff: 11 

Opening hours: 8am-9pm. 

Additional Services: lottery, ATM, food to go
As part of the refit and range review Dennis and Linda almost doubled the size of their single-portion ready meals offer, proudly housed in a new upright chiller at the rear of the store. "We needed lots more tasty meals for one that could be prepared quickly," says Linda. The old chest freezer, which was difficult for stiff backs to access, was also replaced with a shiny new upright one.

And in addition to keeping a record of many of his elderly shoppers' Chip and PIN numbers (with their permission, of course) Dennis also routinely carries their shopping home. Last year Dennis and Linda even invited one elderly widow to Christmas lunch.

So surely after such a frenetic year the pair must be looking to put their feet up, relax and take stock? Not a chance. Grand plans to install new electric shutters, extend the fresh fruit and vegetable offer with single-portion items, set up digital media screens and improve their home delivery service are all afoot.

"We don't get passing trade, which means that we have to take good care of our local customers," adds Dennis.

"There is no room for complacency in retail. If you can't be bothered to invest in your store you might as well walk away."

Yet another classic quote to end our chat on. It's time for us to go anyway the local radio station's just rocked up for an interview.