The phrase “small but perfectly formed” couldn’t be more appropriate for Steve and Linda Denham’s 20-year-old Londis store in West Chiltington, West Sussex.
The couple, who recently doubled the store’s size to just under 1,200sq ft, are suckers for presentation, and have spent a huge amount of time perfecting its layout.
“Presentation is key,” says Steve. “Our store is located in rural Sussex and has next to no passing trade, meaning that we have to work extra hard to keep our local shoppers happy.”
After sending the paper boys off on their rounds at 5am, Steve and Linda’s team take time to ensure that shelves are well stocked and products are displayed to their best. In fact, this was the first thing that David Warren, marketing controller for Mattessons, noticed when he arrived at the store to experience a day in the life of a c-store retailer.
In his normal role David spends much of his days locked in meetings deciding on new and exciting activity for the Mattessons brand. Apart from a paper round in his early teens he hadn’t had any experience of working in a store, so was excited at the prospect of gaining a retailer’s perspective on the industry.
However, before David had a chance to get his fingers on the store’s state-of-the-art touchscreen till system, it was back to school with an in-depth training session on age-restricted sales.
Steve takes no chances with underaged sales in his store, and his staff undergo rigorous training before they are allowed to work on the till. “I once asked to see the ID of a 41-year- old man,” he says. “I had never seen him in my store before, so I didn’t want to take any chances.
“Too many retailers decide who to serve based on judgment, when it should always be based on evidence,” he says.
After a detailed briefing and another training session in how to work the tills, David was let loose on West Chiltington’s shoppers. At 9.30am the store was packed with shoppers, meaning that David was thrown in at the deep end. “It was incredibly flustering at first,” he says. “Every customer was after something different, and I could see that the queue was building up. You have to try to move people on as fast as you can while remaining as polite and chatty as possible, which is a hard thing to do.”
However, after just 10 minutes, David was serving like a pro.
“I was genuinely struck by how much you have to do when serving at the till,” he says. “Luckily, the counter in Steve’s store has been very cleverly constructed and everything you need such as the lottery terminal, papers and bags are within arm’s reach. It means that I hardly had to move from my spot and I never had to take my eyes away from the customer. This is great for interacting with customers and building relationships with them.”
After an hour on the till David’s next task was to help replenish the biscuit aisle, a popular place in Steve and Linda’s store given that almost 60% of the local people are wealthy pensioners. “I was impressed with how well Steve and Linda knew their shopper demographic and what kinds of products they wanted,” adds David.
Next on David’s list was restocking and tidying the chilled aisle, where Mattessons’ new Fridge Raider products are given pride of place.
“I’m really impressed with the lighting and the new chiller cabinets in Steve’s store. They set the products off really well. It’s so important that chiller cabinets are kept looking at their best. Old untidy cabinets can make the product look old, which is never good when you are trying to sell a fresh product.”
David was further surprised by how small Steve’s stockroom and reserve chiller were. “The fact that the stockroom is so small shows that it’s a good store which sells through its products fast,” he says.
Last on David’s list of jobs for the day was sweeping the floor and a final round of rearranging the shelves of the ever-popular chilled fixture to ready them for the following day. “Steve and Linda have got every meal time covered in their chilled fixture, which is why it is so busy all day,” he adds.
“I’m so glad that I have seen at first-hand a community retailer who is getting it right in every way.”