We are over the transitional stage in our new-look store and now into bedding everything down properly: in other words, we’ve finally said goodbye to the builders and shopfitters and are now focusing on the business overall.
We’ve split the business into four specific areas: the Post Office, food to go, fresh & chilled, and the rest of the store. We have separate marketing plans for each of the areas, with their own dedicated team members and housekeeping rules.
The key questions we need to ask ourselves are have we ticked all the boxes when it comes to the in-store environment and efficient working practices, and are we looking after customers properly? These items are interlinked, because if one thing goes wrong it can have a knock-on effect. For example, we realised that we hadn’t done enough training for the post office, and this was leading to queues building up, which in turn meant that we ran out of car-parking spaces as people were waiting longer.
So we have now put in a proper queue management system, trained back-up staff for the post office and put notices up about where to park nearby, and everything has settled down.
In our food-to-go section, the marketing plan is all about serving customers well. We now have solutions for breakfast, mid-morning, lunchtime and evening, and it’s time now to start thinking about adjusting it for the winter season. We just need to tweak it a little - salad bowls and other summer products have done well, but hot food will get better in the darker mornings, and we’ll drive more meal solutions around coffee, and add festive lines such as mince pies and turkey sandwiches.
Our food-to-go sales have been excellent - we’re up 25% since the refit, but I still think we can do more. About half of our sales are in hot food, with a further 30% in sandwiches and baguettes, so we need to put more effort into freshly baked bread to drive sales there. We are working with Country Choice to put a new bread stand in to add a bit more theatre to the display.
I generally find that manufacturers are very good, and will always try to support you; you just need to show them that you are professional and actively trying to grow the business.