How did our ‘Get Your Business in Mint Condition’ competition winners get on after a session with Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne? Amy Lanning catches up with them to find out.

Andrew and Rosslyn Hadley are waiting with baited breath to find out whether their plans to bring Corner House Stores in Minehead, Somerset, into the 21st century will be given the green light.

Courtesy of Convenience Store and The Wrigley Company, the pair won a half-day consultation with successful entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne last year, giving them the opportunity to tap into his expertise and get an expert second opinion on their expansion plans. The session with Duncan evidently gave Andrew and Rosslyn the confidence to go ahead with their ambitious plans. “We found it very useful,” says Andrew. “It confirmed the way we were looking, which was to extend the store.”

The Hadleys are at the stage where plans have been drawn up and planning permission granted, but they are now waiting for building regulations to be approved and for the banks to do their survey. “It’s now down to the builders and banks,” says Andrew. “Unfortunately, the builders’ quotes were higher than expected.”

If they are given the financial go-ahead, the store will be extended from 450sq ft to 750sq ft - big enough for a food preparation area so they can install a bake-off unit and large enough to be eligible for a National Lottery terminal.

“Customers have been asking for hot food so there’s quite a market there,” says Andrew. “We use a local bakery for bread, cakes and pastries every day, but we’ll be able to do them ourselves if we have a bake-off unit.
“It won’t require much investment because companies such as Country Choice and Cuisine de France give you the ovens free if you buy enough stock from them. When we get the extension we can also push for the Lottery again - we get a lot of locals asking for it. Our PayPoint sales are above average so we’re hoping to use that as a lever for the lottery when we’re up and running.”

The development will also allow the Hadleys to offer an ATM. “We’ve struggled with that because the store has floorboards and insurance companies want the ATM bolted down.”

Much of Duncan’s advice will be acted on once the store is extended, but the Hadleys have already been able to move some kids’ products to the counter to encourage sales, and they have extended the off licence range. “We’ve also put up display boards on the wall space, which is in line with Duncan’s advice on attracting customers,” says Andrew.

An expensive lesson learnt last summer has also forced them to add another goal to their wish list - air conditioning.

“We lost a lot of chocolate stock in the summer when the chillers gave off too much heat and melted the chocolate,” says Andrew. “In the end we had to take the bars off the shelf and we lost sales because we couldn’t offer much choice.”

The Hadleys’ £80,000 investment is expected to earn them a 10-15% increase in sales over the first six months. “We’re turning a corner shop that sells newspapers into a full convenience store,” says Andrew. “The bake-off side will push sales up and if we get the National Lottery that will push them up even further.”