Alan operates in the small village of Woodsetts, near Worksop in Nottinghamshire, which has about 800 houses and a population of only 2,000. Alan has struggled to engage his regular customers with new product lines, and being off the main road means his competitors attract any passing trade. But he's eager to change the tide.
The Post Office store already offers dry-cleaning, garment and shoe repairs, home delivery, frozen and chilled foods, an extensive range of greetings cards, alcohol and an ATM, but local competition is rife with two other c-stores just down the road and a number of supermarkets a short drive away.
Duncan advised Alan to push ahead with his plans to convert his traditional Post Office into an open-plan Combi Post Office, where shop and PO facilities are served over the same counter, giving him more space for new product lines. And Duncan has given him the confidence to try a delivered wholesaler, something Alan was reluctant to do after having had his fingers burnt in the past.
Duncan also had some tips on making the most of the shop's existing assets, including better marketing of the cash machine, which would raise awareness of the facility and help make Alan's shop more of a destination store. "There are some small, low-cost adjustments that I believe would make a difference to Alan's turn-over," Duncan advises. "Additionally, there are more long-term solutions, such as partnering with a symbol group, which would provide support and better deals on products than he is currently getting from suppliers. I wish Alan every success and hope that my objective input contributes to his future achievements."
Duncan's top tips
-Invest in epos to give yourself a better idea about sales, footfall and basket spend. It may seem like a large initial investment, but the information it can provide is invaluable
- If you are juggling a number of suppliers and don't think you're receiving a great deal of value from them, look into the possibility of signing up to a delivered wholesaler to reduce the need for time-consuming trips to the cash and carry
- First impressions are vital and if your fascia isn't up to scratch, you could be losing passing custom. Make sure the front of your store is clear and clean. Signing up with a symbol group may also be something to consider in the long term
- By all means support your local community by placing postcard adverts on your store window, but in doing so don't neglect your own marketing - make sure your customers know what products and services you offer
- There are plenty of slight adjustments you can make in-store to drive sales. For example, put wine and beer in the chiller to encourage impulse sales.
Advice for Alan
- Update the shop fascia to 'Post Office & General Store', and consider the long-term solution of a symbol fascia
- Work hard to get the go-ahead and funding for an open-plan Combi Post Office
- Move the ATM signage nearer to the roadside to boost awareness and increase footfall
- Use one window for local ads - black it and keep the other clear
- Consider selling high-margin pick 'n' mix sweets to create a point of difference from local competition
- Move medicines and batteries behind the counter to cash in on impulse sales
- Improve the quality of fruit and veg, and consider other suppliers