I’ve just come back from a holiday trekking in India, and bearing in mind the amount of work we have put into the store and still need to do, I must have been mad!

The challenge most retailers have is tearing themselves away from the store, but having done it I can say you come back recharged and you really do see the shop with a new set of eyes.

It’s now all about focus, focus, focus. We’ve drawn a line under the store development phase – there’s always a legacy of the building work with the builders and shopfitters coming back to finish things off – but now it’s a case of getting into the detail, looking at the sales data, and seeing what is performing and what is not.

Bringing the post office in-store has been a real success. It’s been a cultural change to manage, but has brought real energy into the store as well as new customers. It also means we can do our own banking in-house.

We are achieving a better commission income than the previous post office in town was, albeit on slightly lower sales, so there is still room for growth. Last week we had a Post Office manager in for two days to do some extra training, particularly around upselling, so I’m hoping that will have a positive effect.

Across the shop, everything has been performing well. Fresh and chilled is up by 80%, which is great news. We increased the space by about 60%, so sales per metre have gone up, and fruit and veg has done really well – in fact, sales have doubled. These gains means our product mix overall has changed: in our old store tobacco made up 22% of sales, now it is more like 18%. Our customer count is up 15%.

Interestingly, our frozen sales have gone up, too, despite us having the same range and unit as before. However, the new layout has made the freezer more visible.

The staff have had to adapt to the new personality of the store, and this has been a challenge for some. Whenever you make a big change some people will not be comfortable with it, and in fact we have lost 40% of our staff. But that means we have been able to bring in some new faces, and with that has come some new energy, and most of our core staff are still with us.