Manager Adam Hogwood is shaking up the perceptions of traditional forecourts at his Budgens store in Kent. Aidan Fortune reports.

Located on a high street, and offering far more than snacks and car accessories, Morrison’s Budgens of Broadstairs in Kent breaks all the conventions of a traditional forecourt. But the site wasn’t always at the top of its game.

Having worked his way up from shop assistant to store manager, Adam Hogwood had spent plenty of time thinking about how he might turn around the fortunes of the store and take it beyond the realm of your average forecourt. Upon taking over the day-to-day running of the store, Adam worked with the store owners - father and daughter team Bill Morrison and Annabel Du Plessis - on a major review of the shop’s range and layout. “Our first priority was making customers realise that a forecourt can be more than just soft drinks and what can be seen as sub-par sandwiches, and that it can be a place where a main shop can be done,” says Adam. “We wanted customers to see us as a good store that happened to sell petrol rather than a forecourt with a shop.”

To help achieve this, the team made the bold choice of moving the chilled snacks away from the front of the store and putting fresh fruit and vegetables in their place. “We try and have different fruits and vegetables here that will offer something unique when customers come in. Since the changeover fresh sales have trebled,” explains Adam. “Budgens has also introduced the ‘Perfect Together’ campaign which matches food products which complement each other. Some of them are quite obvious but they’re highlighted on the shelf edge for customers to see.”

Store profile

Morrison’s Budgens of Broadstairs, Kent

Size: 2,300sq ft

Staff: 30

Opening hours: 24/7, 365 days a year

Additional services: Parcel delivery, ATM

Weekly Turnover: £50,000 per week

But what about snacks? Did the move alienate those customers who are simply looking to buy a sandwich or a coffee to go?

“When we moved the soft drinks from beside the door it confused a lot of people who were used to them being there,” he says. “But they got used to it and now it’s not a problem. Plus they’ll pass by a lot more of the store on their way to the display and might pick up another product along the way, or at the very least realise how much the store has to offer.”

To help dispel the outdated view of forecourts, the team at Budgens Broadstairs started working with a lot of local suppliers to provide something that the multiples don’t. The store now stocks local ales, cakes, rapeseed oil and crisps, all of which are highlighted by on-shelf tickets. There is also a large board outside the store that Adam puts a different message on every day to communicate local produce sold in the store. He says that local produce is key for independent retailers and if both parties work hard it can be mutually beneficial.

“We work with some very proactive suppliers who help us sell their products better,” he says. “The last thing you want is a local supplier who does it half-heartedly and might let you down. We’re grateful to work with some fantastic suppliers. Broadstairs is quite a foodie place so offering local, top quality produce has been very important in helping us grow.”

One local supplier, South Barn Gifts, helps to encourage repeat custom through its personalised cakes. “Customers can order a cake with a name on it, which means they’re in the store both to order it and then to pick it up, so we get two opportunities to impress them, as well as the commission from 
the sale of the cake itself,” points out Adam.

In addition to providing a strong local produce offering, he is also intent on conveying a value message to customers. There are several display units around the shop floor offering promotions and the staff have been trained to upsell some £1 lines at the till. “Even though it’s an affluent area, customers still want value so we have to provide that,” he says. “We have some promotional bays near the front of the store and staff ask every customer if they want to buy that week’s item displayed by the till. Not everyone will but 1,700 customers come to the store daily. If half of those spent an extra £1 with us, that’s a lot of money for not much more work.”

Since Adam has taken over management of the store, a Co-op has opened up nearby, but it doesn’t faze him. “Sales were down for the first couple of weeks, but it levelled off when people realised we had better quality produce plus local items, and that’s what customers want.”

As well as working his way up through the ranks at Morrison’s Budgens, Adam is also an accomplished magician so is no stranger to a bit of theatre. He uses these skills to good effect by creating engaging displays, and is always looking to perfect the act of retail.

“As soon as you stop and think the store is perfect, then you’re losing money. You always have to be looking at it and how it can be improved. There are displays here that I want to do away with and replace them with something else and then after that I’ll see something else that needs fixing. It’s a never-ending job but once you accept that and work around it, the job can be very rewarding.”

Not everything introduced has worked as well in the changeover but Adam sees this as a learning. “We introduced a fish range but there is an excellent fishmongers across the road so it’s tough to compete with that,” says Adam. “We carry a small selection because we’re open 24 hours and someone might be looking for fish when the fishmongers is closed, but it’s not a huge priority for us. The main thing is that you try these things and find out if they’ll be a success or not.”

Always keen to learn, some of the staff recently spent a day at Binny Amin’s store in nearby Whitstable to see how it was done there. “It was an interesting learning experience for us, especially as it’s a much larger store but it manages its stock so there is nothing in the stockroom,” he says. “We obviously have less space on our shop floor so we need more in storage, but since we visited Binny’s store we’ve trimmed back 12 shelves of stock in our back room and are continually looking to improve on this.”

Adam’s experience in working his way up from shop assistant to store manager has helped instill a strong work ethic and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty with the rest of the staff.

“I’ve never been a fan of managers who sit in the office all day and then go home as soon as their shift is over,” he says. “I prefer to be out on the shop floor with the team getting real work done. Some people may say I’m a mug but I just think it’s fair on the staff.”

Staff morale is important to the team and business transparency is key. “We post weekly takings on the noticeboard for everyone to see,” says Adam. “It helps them become more invested in the business and see what we’re all working towards.”

The noticeboard also helps inform staff of upcoming events and targets for those days. “The Broadstairs Folk Festival is one of our biggest weeks of the year, over 40,000 people visit the town, so we’ll be expecting huge sales from that and want our staff to be ready.

“It’s about looking at every opportunity to grow sales and build relationships with the local community,” adds Adam. “Last year the Olympic Torch came right past the store so we held a colouring competition with the local school and the entries were used as bunting for the day that the torch was here. It cemented our relationship with the local school and if the kids were here to see their bunting being shown off, their parents had to be as well so they were spending money in store.”

With forward-thinking management at the helm, the store is fast becoming a vital part of the community and shaking off the shackles of stale sandwiches and stodgy snacks. ■