Family business Rusdene Services not only nurtures its product range, but also its employees. Sarah Britton reports
Londis, Rusdene Services, Waterlooville, Hampshire
Opening hours: 6.30am-9.30pm, Monday-Friday, 7am-9pm Saturday and Sunday
Staff: five full-time, one part-time
Additional services: ATM, PayPoint, food to go, lottery Size: 800sq ft
At just 33 years of age, Ollie Lodge is head of the family business and running not one, but nine different stores. “We have one Budgens, two Nisas, three Londis and three previously unaffiliated stores that have just become Londis-branded,” reels off Ollie.
One of the smaller stores is an 800sq ft Londis unit in Waterlooville, Hampshire. The store previously traded under the defunct Smile fascia, and Ollie was keen to do something to spruce it up and match up to the strong competition it faces locally. The store, which Ollie has owned for seven years, competes with an Asda, Morrisons and Co-op, while a Shell garage is just 700 yards away.
Standout has been achieved not only through a smart new Londis fascia, but also by the product range particularly the impressively revamped chilled offer. “It hasn’t got reams of products, but there’s a good selection for this size of store,” says Ollie. A variety of Italian and Indian ready meals now sit proudly on shelves, offering the nearby office workers more exciting lunchtime options than the standard sandwich fayre. There’s also a new Boston’s coffee unit and a new range of fruit which has been going down a storm. “There’s a massive trading estate with Royal Mint and British Aerospace nearby, so lunchtime trade is important and we’ve tailored the product range accordingly,” Ollie explains.
Crisps are another category where sales have seen a boost since the store joined a symbol group. Sales are up 25% after they switched to a new type of shelving and changed the Walkers display.
Energy drinks are also a hit, adds Ollie. “We had them on a two for £2 offer and sold 648 in a month. I remember my Dad, Derek, coming back from NACS 15 years ago saying everyone was talking about energy drinks before anyone here had even heard of them.”
Derek started the family business 22 years ago after working as a property manager for Esso, and while he now leaves the NACS trips to Ollie, he is still embarking on research abroad.
“Dad’s recently been to France to source new wines. It has been a matter of knocking on chateau doors and meeting new producers,” says Ollie. “Londis has done really good work on own label wine, but we wanted to give customers something a bit different when it came to brands.”
Having found a suitably novel selection of wines, Ollie has been trialling them at one of his larger stores in Midhurst. “It’s really taken off, so we’ll be rolling it out to the other sites, bar Budgens.”
He explains that it’s all about giving customers that little bit extra. “We want to add theatre and get people better educated about wine, so we’ve come up with leaflets and tasting notes. Once they get into it they’ll be back for more, so we’ll have increased purchase.”
Keeping the money rolling in is, of course, a key priority for Ollie, but not just because he wants to fill his pockets. “Being able to make a profit is the most rewarding thing by a country mile because if the store performs well then we can really reward the people behind it.”
Keeping the workforce happy is central to everything that Rusdene Services stands for. “We’re not perfect, but we pay above the industry average,” says Ollie. The generous firm also runs a staff loyalty scheme. “At Christmas, you get a percentage of your annual salary paid for every year you’ve worked here as an incentive to stay.”
This supportive attitude means staff are encouraged to stay at the company and work their way up through the ranks in fact, several of Ollie’s store managers started on the shopfloor. “Watching people develop within the company is genuinely the most satisfying thing for me as a retailer,” claims Ollie. “Our ethos is that we’re a family business and we don’t rule with an iron fist people won’t want to stay if they feel they are part of a conveyor belt system.”
The company gets the best out of everyone, getting them to work across its different stores to help them increase their skill set. “It’s good for them to experience different stores,” says Ollie. “It helps them to see what sells and what doesn’t in different store formats and areas, and it also gives them plenty of ideas.”
With the business boasting an exceptionally low staff turnover, it’s clearly a strategy that works well. “We have a great team of staff they all smile lots and talk to the customers,” beams Ollie. “As a company we have our fighting troops on the ground serving the public, rather than hidden away in head office management.”
With that kind of attitude, Rusdene should have no problems stealing a march on its rivals.