The Post Office’s Network Transformation Programme enabled Adam Moody to knock down walls and refit his Northumberland store. The impact was instant

Adam Moody’s decision to refit his Londis store on the Northumbrian coast paid off immediately. After re-opening the store in June, year-on-year turnover increased 40% in the first three months, and 65% in the first four days.

Prior to the refit, the 1,000sq ft store was half the size and separated from the Post Office by a store room, meaning customers had to use two separate entrances. Adam, 28, had been eager to knock down the barriers and modernise the store since he took it over from his mother five years ago, but he couldn’t find a solution - until one handily presented itself.

“The refit was enabled by the Post Office Local model. I’d always wanted to do it, but it was never possible. When we heard about the Network Transformation Programme we were keen to go for it from the off.”

The refit cost £80,000 - which Lloyds TSB happily loaned, to Adam’s surprise - and took one month to complete. While the work took place, Adam and his wife operated a temporary store from the garage, and a mobile van came once a week to provide Post Office services. Aside from knocking down the walls, the refit involved lowering the floor of the original Post Office, exposing roof beams, inserting suspended lighting - which is LED throughout the shop - and fitting wooden floors. “Now people walk in and say ‘wow, this looks really great’,” Adam enthuses. “They love the way the shop looks with the wooden floors and ceilings, how it now opens out, and the bottom end, where the Post Office was, with the exposed beams and black ceiling. Before it was tatty and tired and ready for the facelift.”

Store Facts

Moody’s Londis

Store size: 1,000sq ft

Customer base: Residents, summer tourists

Weekly turnover: £7,000 in winter £15,000 in summer

Average basket spend: £5.50 (£4.50 before refit)

Customer engagement: Milk and newspaper deliveries running Bonfire Night celebrations

Energy efficiency: LED lighting, chillers with doors

Last refit: 2013

But aesthetics wasn’t the only reason for the upgrade; Adam had a clear strategy in mind. “Fresh is the way forward - meat, fruit and veg, dairy, the whole lot - and one of the main reasons we did the refit. Before, we had a 1.5m fridge and we couldn’t keep it full, so now we’ve doubled the size of it,” he says. “People aren’t going to supermarkets as much as they were, but they still need their fresh stuff to complement what they’ve got in their cupboards. The choice is there for them to do that now.”

The nearest supermarket is seven miles away in Alnwick and a number of nearby village shops have been forced to close recently, so Adam caters for residents beyond just his village of Embleton.

In the summer months, when he benefits from the influx of tourists lured by the beautiful North East coast, turnover will typically double. But this summer brought in an even bigger tide of seasonal customers. “Some tourists were spending £80-£90 a time, which never happened before. People can see that the store’s bigger and there’s so much more to offer,” he says.

But the locals are his staple customers, and he works hard to engage with them, especially those living in outlying villages. “When we did the refit I sponsored an issue of the village magazine and sent it out to double the usual catchment area to tell people what we were doing, explaining that the Post Office would be closed for four weeks and the shop would be a temporary structure,” he says. “I attached a 10% off voucher as well. Of the 1,000 magazines which went out, we took in about 200 vouchers and those people are coming back regularly now.”

He provides daily milk and newspaper home deliveries to about 250 customers within a five-mile radius, helping those whose local shop has closed down. He’ll also take orders for people who can’t make it to the shop.

Adam is receptive to customers’ suggestions, which is reflected by the rich variety of local products sourced from a number of suppliers. Cheese and ice cream come from the nearby Doddington Dairy honey from a farm up the road an assortment of local ales from the Alnwick brewery and the best local seller, bread, from a local bakery. “We sell loads of local rolls and uncut loaves, while the beer and ice cream do really well, too,” he points out.

The latest local product to grace the shelves is Northumberland Tea, which took a scenic detour to market. Adam explains: “One of my customers went to the Alnwick food festival where they tried the product. Then the company approached me and said one of my customers wanted me to stock the tea, which I agreed to. So we had a customer recommendation to the company themselves, who then approached me! I’m open to anything as long as it’s going to sell. I’m always looking for ideas.”

Fruit and veg, which he says is difficult to source locally, comes with the tri-weekly Londis deliveries. Adam says Londis’ new centralised frozen offering has “helped massively”, especially given his isolated location, but he’s less enthusiastic about the SuperValu range. “Some of it’s really good, but the branding’s completely wrong. People think it’s a value range, but it’s mid range. If you want value you’ll go for the Basic range.”

The refit also enabled Adam to expand the alcohol section as well as introduce local ales for the first time. “The Londis alcohol deals are fantastic. We’ve always got good alcohol offers and the category’s increasing all the time,” he says. “I’m focusing more on wine, too. I used to stock just £5 wines, but now I’ve introduced £7-£8 wines which are selling really well. Oxford Landing and Jacobs Creek are popular, and I’ve started doing Oyster Bay which I’d never considered before. Londis retails it at just £8.”

To enhance the wine fixture, Adam has introduced a premium wine (and cheese) display, which is intended to evoke a farmhouse kitchen-feel. “It draws people’s attention to the whole fixture and caters for the minority who buy premium wine,” he adds.

He says he’s also considering driving volume by following the Majestic model, in which customers can buy discounted wine in bulk orders.

As for the future, Adam wants to continue embracing the latest technology. His next cost- and energy-saving venture is solar panels. “I need the roof re-done so it’s a good opportunity to install the panels at the same time. I’m going to look into a heat reclaim system for the fridge, too,” he says.

He’s also planning to introduce contactless card payments. “It would make a colossal difference. Card payments at the moment take about 30-40 seconds each. I’ve been in touch with Londis about changing credit card providers, but I’ve got to put in broadband first. There are a few Londis retailers already doing it, such as Arjan Mehr.”

Adam had more pressing plans when C-Store visited in October. “We run the village Bonfire Night celebrations on 5 November after taking it on a couple of years ago when nobody else wanted to. We ask for donations at the counter, but we always spend more than we collect. We’re doing a kids’ party from 4pm and then bonfire and fireworks from 6pm. I’ve just had the fireworks delivered, which this year cost me £1,100,” he says. “It’s a way of thanking the community for all their support.”

Smart savings

As part of the refit, Adam introduced eco-friendly fridges with doors and LED lights. “Before the refit the fridge pumped out so much cold air that the shop was always freezing cold, so I wanted an eco-friendly fridge - mainly for the temperature difference, but also for my energy bills,” he says.

Adam spent about £1,500 on LED lighting throughout the store. With each light costing about 10p per day in energy costs, he expects to see a return on investment within two years. When he upgrades the roof he plans to install solar panels.