Up until now we’ve been firefighting – with the size of the store and the introduction of the post office it was quite a dramatic change – but now things are finally starting to settle down. We are averaging 12% growth at the moment. The challenge is keeping up with availability, and also the change in shopper habits as categories that were underperforming before are now doing well, such as grocery.
Our basket spend is now £6, whereas before it was £5. As a result we need to be more confident with our buying. Before we operated an automatic ordering system, but as we were closed for four weeks with the refit the data is now incorrect. It’s a bit of a learning curve for us to build up the data again and in the meantime we’ve had to go back to manual ordering.
There’s a lot of curiosity with the new post office. It’s bringing in new faces and, what’s more, they are buying extra products while they are here. Customers have to walk through the fresh produce to reach it and on their way out they walk through the off licence. We have a wine offer right by the post office, so when people are standing in the queue, we’ll see them pick up a bottle.
Even though the shop has been upgraded to a very high standard, we still need to convey the message that we offer value. We’re really focusing on promotions and thanks to the expansion we now have room for promotional stacks, dump bins, wine towers and special offer bays.
Customers are very complimentary about the store and if we can get the message across that we have a community post office open from 7am til 10pm and have great promotions, we will be able to tick all the boxes.
Wastage is a challenge. It’s currently at 7-8%, so it’s not for the faint-hearted! But the beauty of convenience retail is that we are always there to support each other. I’ve been speaking to Budgens retailer David Knight as he is a regular visitor since recently moving house. David said that it took him three months to get wastage under control at his new store. It’s an investment and wastage is part and parcel of growing the fresh category. It was good to have the reassurance.