With its strong focus on fresh and chilled ranges and spacious design, Kash Jaffar’s Budgens store has everything its affluent customer base could ever wish for

Budgens Wixams is in the enviable position of being built in the middle of a new housing development, surrounded by local families and a stone’s throw from the village hall and school. Now 18 months old, the store is fast-becoming the hub of the newly-created village, which is expected to become the third largest settlement in Bedfordshire. Unsurprisingly, store owner Kash Jaffar, who owns 15 Budgens and Londis stores, and area manager Steve Franklin, are keen to show off their latest venture.

Inside there is a definite feeling of spaciousness, with wide aisles and windows running across the store front letting in plenty of light. The store has used its window ledges to create attractive displays that avoid clutter while still allowing customers good visibility into the store. Meanwhile, fixtures have been purposefully designed at a low level to provide a more open feel and improve the customer shopping environment.

Fresh produce is a major focus and customers are immediately greeted by a colourful display of flowers, fruit and veg in stacked rustic wicker baskets standing on wooden shelving dressed in hessian cloth. “We pre-plan all our displays to make sure they are effective and eye-catching,” Kash points out.

Store facts

Budgens Wixams, Bedfordshire

Store size: 2,990sq ft

Weekly turnover: £26,000, excluding services

Average basket spend: £7.20

Key products: fresh produce, meat and bakery

Customer engagement: Sponsors Wixams football team, supported the school’s fête

Energy efficiency: LED lighting throughout, doors on chillers, heat regeneration system

Reaching far beyond the basics, the fresh aisle offers a dazzling selection of avocados, galia melons and butternut squashes, as well as pre-packed baby sweetcorn, and carrot and runner bean twin-packs for those on the hunt for food-for-tonight solutions.

The store also caters for consumers looking for an instant meal, with hot food-to-go products and a Costa Express machine proving popular with the builders working on the housing development. And for those with a sweet tooth, there is a generous confectionery offering, which is promoted by having dual-sited products across the kiosk area, a queuing confectionery unit and merchandising across the store.

The wine cellar is an attractive focal point and features a carved-out barrel, displaying wine bottles on promotion. The store appeals to its affluent customer base with most bottles priced between £5 and £7, and a number of £15 and £16 options. “We have a great selection of beers, red, rosé and white wines all available chilled, and a range of ongoing promotions,” says Steve. “Our alcohol sales make up 18% of turnover and this figure is growing.”

The chilled selection is equally impressive, with fresh meat, fish and ready meals on a range of pricing tiers, offering something for everyone, from Supervalu macaroni cheese to Discover the Taste king prawn linguini.

Head of chilled, dairy and fresh meat, Becs, takes her role very seriously when it comes to maintaining standards and availability. “It is hard work, but rewarding when you get it right,” she says. “We have to judge what people are going to buy in advance, so on Friday I’m doing an order for Tuesday. You do make mistakes sometimes, but it feels good to be in charge of your own area and we get praise when we get it right.”

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Energy efficiency

Kash has invested £120,000 in chillers with doors and £15,000 on LED lighting. This equipment isn’t cheap, but is expected to provide payback within three years.

The heat regeneration system cost £15,000 and means the store requires no air-con or heating. In addition, a temperature management system alerts the refrigeration suppliers to any issues so they can be fixed remotely.

The investments have already made a dramatic impact on overheads. “We save 56% on energy costs compared with a standard store,” says Kash.

Allowing the department head to manage ordering and promotions generates consistency and ownership, claims Steve. “It’s challenging for them having to take into account how demand can be affected by different holidays and the weather, but they really embrace it - they take it personally if they have gaps on the shelves and they’re constantly striving to improve.”

Steve is equally committed to ensuring the store looks its best. He regularly walks the store with Kash to ensure that standards remain high, and uses epos as a tool for removing slow sellers, as well as increasing facings of popular lines. “We use epos to make space for npd,” he says. “Musgrave expects you to stock everything they suggest, but that’s not possible, so we analyse the top 20 best and worst sellers and take it from there.

“We have an automated ordering facility but ordering is based more around sales reports and staff knowledge. For example, the bakery department head might know that one lady buys four loaves on a Tuesday, but then she won’t be in for the next fortnight.”

In order to keep his team motivated, Kash employs a HR and training manager to aid in staff recruitment and training, and to recognise talent to develop for future management. “All the management team have been developed through the business,” he explains. Employee Lynne Brown was an assistant manager at one of Kash’s other stores before taking on the role of manager at Wixams. She is now a constant presence on the shop floor as a result of Kash’s decision to base the store’s computer system behind the tills, enabling her to analyse sales data while also being on hand to greet customers and note any feedback or requests.

As well as investing in his team, Kash has made a considerable effort to get involved with the local community. The store sponsors the local Wixams football team and also supported the school’s fête, allowing the event to be held in its car park. The shop provided hundreds of pounds-worth of cakes and drinks, and got several suppliers involved in the event. “The school is only one-third full at the moment, but in time I hope to work with the community more closely,” says Kash.

He explains that it is important for the store to be seen to be interacting with the local community. “Marketing of our stores is paramount to their success. We achieve this through local press featuring our community and charity events throughout the year.”

The store recently took part in a particularly exciting project, which involved breathing life back into a traditional Bedfordshire dish. “Our biggest marketing event so far has without doubt been working with Channel 4 television on Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty’s Friday Night Feast show.” The store worked with the celebrities to help them revive the Bedfordshire Clanger, a savoury and sweet pasty-style product, which was traditionally eaten by farmers. “There is only one baker in the country still making and selling the Clanger and we have partnered up with them and will soon be selling the item,” says Kash. The programme is due to air tonight.

The store’s commitment to supporting the local area is clearly paying off, with many customers coming in several times a week for a basket shop. As a result, the average basket spend has risen from £4.50 when the store first opened, to a very respectable £7.20. But although the shop is already performing well, Kash concedes that there is ample room for growth given that the housing in the surrounding area is set to quadruple by 2020.

“There are currently 1,200 inhabited properties in the development, but this will grow to 5,000 by 2020,” he says.

Weekly turnover has also rocketed, from £14,000 to £29,000 (including £3,000 services) and this is expected to double in the next three years as the area becomes more established.