Going from managing a c-store for someone else to running one for yourself is a big move but has many advantages, as Mark Wingett found out.

No one finds it much fun or particularly rewarding to be doing all the work for someone else and not receiving much of the credit.

After working in a Costcutter store for five years, Fran Pearcy decided it was her turn to get the pats on the back. She’s now her own boss and runs the Today’s Local store in the village of Broughton, North Lincolnshire.

She explains: “Five years ago I worked part-time at a Costcutter store in Barrow and gradually worked my way up to assistant manageress. I basically ran the store and eventually I got fed up because the manager didn’t seem to be doing a great deal but was taking most of the credit, so I decided to leave.”

Fran’s frustration led her to take a job in a pet shop, but the lure of c-store life was still strong and the decision to take on a store of her own wasn’t long in coming.

She says: “My husband Ernie and I looked everywhere in the local region and into Yorkshire for a suitable outlet. We saw this store, which had been a Spar for 15 years, but weren’t sure about it because it was up for rental and not purchase. However, when it came up for sale, along with the house connected to it, we made our move.”

When the couple took over the business in April 2005 they realised that fascia more in line with the demographic of a growing village was needed. Fran had dealings with the local Today’s Group wholesaler Dee Bee and soon arranged a meeting with the company’s sales director, Craig O’Connor, to discuss the possibility of signing up to the Today’s Local package.

Fran says: “He took us around other stores that had converted to the Today’s Local fascia and we also got in touch with other groups, but always came back to feeling that Today’s would be the best for us. We were impressed by the way Craig operated and his vision of what we could achieve with the store. Plus, whatever he has said he has always backed up.”

The whole refurbishment took a month and the new-look store was fully operational by November, having extended from 600sq ft to 1,000sq ft.

“We didn’t close for one day,” says Fran proudly. “We traded every day during the refit. Turnover might have gone down a little bit but we never closed because you can’t afford to lose the regular trade you’ve worked so hard to build.”

With the help of a store survey carried out by O’Connor, Fran knows what the store’s potential is and the sales target to aim for.

“Average weekly turnover when we started was about £9,000. We’re now at £12,500 and the target we’ve set ourselves is £16,000 or possibly more than that. With the help of Craig we have been able to determine the best range, promotions and products for the store to be a success.”

However, planning and research can only take you so far and the continued growth of the business will also rely on Fran’s local knowledge and her staff.

She says: “I couldn’t have wished for a better set of staff. All are local and all have invested a lot of their time and effort into making this a store the entire community uses and can be proud of.”

The friendliness of her staff and the lack of immediate competition means that Fran has cracked the golden egg for most c-store operators: getting customers to pick up a basket every time they shop.

She says: “Since the refurbishment the spend per basket has doubled. Rather than make the trip to the nearest supermarket in Brigg, many of our customers choose to do their big shop here. There are 3,200 households in Broughton and it’s classed as a town. Brigg is smaller but nevertheless hosts some of the major multiples, so the market is there for this store to try and reach.”

A good mix of ages and incomes in Broughton has also helped Fran to develop the store.

She says: “We’re not on a through- road here, so we can’t rely on passing trade. As a result we have to make the most of what’s on our doorstep. The varied customer mix always keeps us on our toes and allows us to experiment with different lines. We also run regular promotions in an effort to appeal to the widest range of customers.”

While being positioned in the centre of the town is good for footfall, it can also turn a store into a meeting place for young people. It is Fran’s friendly attitude and local links that help her out in this respect.

“I tell my staff that we should try not to make enemies of anyone. When kids come in or hang around outside we try and talk to them, and be friendly, because they represent our next generation of customers. It also helps that I know most of their parents, who also shop here, and that acts as a deterrent to bad behaviour.”

Fran is determined that the store will build on its positive start. She says: “We have a target to reach and hopefully even exceed. There is a good package in place and a brilliant team of staff who will be crucial in achieving our goal.”

The future looks assured and, if all goes to plan, may even involve purchasing another store. When Fran looks back at her short time out of c-store life she realises that the skills needed to run a successful local c-store aren’t that different from those required to run a pet shop.

She concludes: “The key to success in any business is to keep everyone in the store, whether it’s pets, customers or staff, happy and satisfied.”

So whether it’s two legs or four, all those who visit Today’s Local in Broughton are sure of a warm welcome.

Key Points
Location: Broughton, North Lincolnshire
Size: 1,000sq ft
Opening hours: 7am-10pm Monday to Saturday, 8am-9pm Sundays
Staff: 8 part-time
Average weekly turnover: £12,500
Points of interest: Home deliveries, chilled alcohol