Despite stiff competition from the rural and neighbourhood winners, Andrew Newton's dedication to the local community is what swung him the title of overall winner in our Growing with Warburtons competition.
And it's a great achievement considering his Nisa Local store in Brierley Hill, West Midlands, has only been trading for just under 30 months, and against all the odds in a run-down council estate.
When Andrew first came to the area, the community didn't even have a local shop so when he got the chance to turn the estate's derelict pub, which had been closed down several times by the council because of trouble, into a community store, he grabbed it.
He gutted the property and set up a website so the community could see the store developing, and as an outsider from Southport, he set about getting himself known to the locals by going to residents' committee meetings and allowing the community to have some input into which symbol group to sign up to.
The rest, as they say, is history, and Andrew has developed a £28,500-a-week store (including lottery and bill payments) with a plethora of services to keep the customers coming in.
Even in the short time since our last interview with Andrew in the June 30 issue, when he was announced winner of the town category, he's achieved a lot, both for the community and his store. His campaign to get a post box installed on the estate ended in victory last month; he ran a 'trolley dash' competition with the local press in July, which gave him two quarter pages of free publicity in the newspaper; and he's re-merchandised seven departments in line with Unilever's Partners for Growth advice.
"That's been really successful," says Andrew. "We've doubled the space for cereals, moved cakes next to biscuits instead of bread, and extended pet food by one metre in width resulting in a 12% increase in sales in four weeks."
Big Plans
Andrew has also put in an exterior cash machine and removed the internal one. "We've got a lot of competition in the town so you've got to offer as many excuses as possible for people to come to your shop, and that's where your services and work in the community come in," he says.
"It's been quiet over the school holidays but that's given me the chance to step outside the shop and look objectively at the business, and visit other stores to get new ideas. We've got to make the shop a destination and give customers more reasons to put their hands in their pockets."
The former Camelot rep now has his sights on a second store and fast food outlet in nearby Halesowen. "I'm in the final stages of discussions with the planning office at the council to build a 3,000sq ft store with a strong fast food element because it's on a busy main road," he explains. "I'm also going to open a fish and chip shop next door soon after."
Like the Brierley Hill store, Andrew's new venture will see him revitalising another run down area. "The whole row of shops is totally boarded up - it's a real blot on the landscape and has been for several years," he says. "I hope to work with the community to turn that area around. Once the shop opens I think we'll see the other units open up.
"Fast food is where I want to go, either as standalone operations or as part of a c-store," he says. "I'm looking at coffee to go, and all fascia and hot food takeaway options including Bake & Bite and Subway.
"The shop will be on one of the busiest roads into Birmingham and two miles away is a Tesco Express, McDonald's, and BP Connect, so if they're investing in the road, it should be a winner," adds Andrew. "I'm not worried about the competition, and my end of the road is also quite densely populated so we'll get the residents as well as commuters and the white van brigade."
Being crowned overall winner of our Growing with Warburtons competition, means Andrew has also received a further £1,000 to add to the £250 he earned for winning the town category. But in typical style he won't be frittering away his cheque, he's spending it on a new automatic door to make the shop more accessible to the young mums who come into the store with buggies.
And once that's installed, Andrew says his Brierley Hill store will almost be where he wants it to be. "It's strange to think that two and half years ago I used to wake up in the night wondering what on earth I was doing. I've had to make sacrifices and have got obsesssive about the shop, but with it nearly finished I might get some time to myself."

Congratulations


Brett Warburton, director of Warburtons, sends his congratulations: "Andrew has done a tremendous job, especially considering the history of the store. It's a fantastic store and he's a worthy winner.
"Getting involved in this competition has been another way of showing our support to the convenience sector. We have a number of initiatives within convenience and it's an area we will continue to invest in and support."

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