Budgens retailer Alec Gardner runs East Bergholt Post Office and Stores in Suffolk with his wife and daughter
What were you doing when we interrupted you?
I was in the middle of a training session for my new computer system. It should hopefully make us much more accurate and show us exactly which parts of the business are making us money and which are losing it. It all seems to be quite straight forward so far, but if I do come unstuck I’ve got my daughter to help me out. She’s recently joined the business and we are looking after the accounting side of things. Fortunately, she’s far more computer literate than me!
Excellent. We’ve invested quite significantly in the store this year to try and stay ahead of the game and it’s definitely paying off. Musgrave’s investment in category development has been a huge help and the store looks so much better for it. We’ve got some really interesting new products in at the moment, including Finland celery and Walnuts, which give us more depth and create a bit of excitement and a talking point for the customers.
What’s hot in your store at the moment?
One of our most popular products is the box of 20 clementines that we’re selling for just £3. They do really well at this time of year as people attempt to keep colds and flu at bay by upping their vitamin C levels.
How was Christmas?
Fantastic. We sold more turkeys than ever before - just under 130 to be exact. The turkey sales, on which we also make a nice profit, also helped to boost our vegetable and wine sales. We had distributed quite a few circulars advertising our range in the local village prior to Christmas, which was costly but definitely worth it.
Are you prepared for snow and bad weather?
Yes, as we learned quite a lot from last year so are well prepared and confident that we’d do well out of it if and when it comes. We always take care to keep ourselves well stocked and have next-day delivery to keep us available of the essentials. Last year the delivery lorry arrived on time every day despite there being six inches of snow on the ground, so I’m confident we can deal with anything the weather throws at us.
What’s your plan for action for the year ahead?
To keep doing what we’re doing: give the best possible service ensure perfect availability of the best-sellers and keep shoppers guessing with new and exciting products where possible. These days people are looking to shop more locally, and while money’s tight small retailers such as us have a great opportunity to win their custom and hopefully retain it.