Over the years we have had conversations with various multi-site retailers about their journey from their first site to two, three, or more, and they all have said the same thing: “The second one is the hardest”.That would have put some people off, but in our case we found it intriguing!
There is no doubt that a second store has its challenges, but in our case we were about to embark on the most challenging few months of our retail career. We bought a second site in June 2016 in the busy village of Markethill and, although it was a fuel site and would be completely new to us, we were confident we could operate both.
The property was a repossession, but the tenant had 18 months left on the lease and we were happy to let the estate agent to continue with the rental arrangements to give us time to plan the redevelopment. However, the tenant had fallen behind on the rent and the landlord had fallen behind on other commitments, too, meaning that services such as Lottery, PayPoint and ATM had been cut off, there had been no fuel on site for eight weeks and other regulatory requirements had lapsed or not been re-applied for.
We knew that the safest and best answer to all of this was to close up and re-open again with what we had. With the help of family and friends we closed and secured the site and brought the entire store up to meet regulations. We then recruited new staff, trained them, and opened after 10 days!
We were very aware that our customers didn’t know us, or us them, and it was important to us that they felt reassured we were there to provide services that they had been doing without, and build up a relationship with them. Regular contact with customers is important – this is when you learn what they need and you try your best to provide for them to make their life a little easier. We hope to offer a self-service hot food service from October to complement our Barista coffee with a view to a full deli when we do the refit in spring/summer 2018.
A second store is a huge commitment, but has by no means put us off adding to our retail site portfolio. In fact, it has probably made us hungrier for more.