Giving shoppers more reasons to visit is reaping rich results in Guy Warner’s award-winning Budgens store.

Guy Warner and his flagship store in Moreton-in-Marsh are certainly no strangers to awards - and thanks to a further year of backbreaking work from Guy, store manager Jerry Tweney and the rest of the team, it’s bagged another one for the trophy cabinet: Best Large Store.

Loyalty was the watchword for 2014 with Guy and the team striving to nurture it at every turn. At the heart of their campaign for customer loyalty was the highly-anticipated launch of the store’s own loyalty card.

The launch, late last summer, followed months of painstaking work and negotiations between Guy, his existing epos provider and an Irish web-based loyalty company that was offering the functionality Guy wanted, for a price he was also willing to pay.

However, the effort was more than worth it. Just over six months post-launch, more than 30% of sales are made using the card, which has also seen the store’s Taste Club membership rise to more than 6,000.

Store facts

Warner’s Budgens Moreton-in-Marsh

Size: 9,500sq ft

Weekly turnover: £148,000 excluding services

Opening hours: Mon-Sat 8am-10pm, Sun 10am-4pm

Services: Online shopping and free local delivery, post office, car wash

Social media: Facebook, Twitter, website

“The loyalty card has not only taken Taste Club into orbit, it’s also provided us with a whole new level of customer data, allowing us to target shoppers in a much more focused way and offer them even more value, with hundreds of new people signing up each week,” Guy says.

The customer data has certainly been enlightening. “We found out, for example, that some customers were spending about £300 a week with us. It was so important to be able to identify these people so that we could thank them properly for their loyalty and keep on providing them with what they want. At Christmas we were able to write to our top 50 spending customers, giving them all £5 as a thank you.”

Another festive offer of £25 off the Christmas shop for extra-loyal Taste Club reward card customers generated further excitement and led to redemptions worth thousands of pounds and contributed to “record breaking” festive turnover.

Other ideas have already included free coffees for card members, while this spring shoppers will get 20% off rosé wine.

Meanwhile, in line with its mantra of “giving shoppers more reasons to visit”, 2014 also saw the store relaunch its glass-fronted deli counter with a new range of 350 premium lines.

“Budgens centrally was getting out of deli, but it’s always been a key point of difference for us so rather than back away we decided to go at it full whack,” Guy says. “Standards needed to be raised and a more premium offer was required so we approached Anthony Rowcliffe & Son - the quality cheese and chilled deli products importer - who helped us to re-lay the counter and establish a new core cheese and meat range all driven around quality,” Guy says.

The arresting-looking counter sweeps across the right-hand side of the store and takes shoppers on a journey across creamy local cheeses to enticing hams, olives, pâtés and pies, before depositing them in front of the equally tempting local patisserie counter and its glossy chocolate-covered treats.

“The margin on deli items has gone up by 12% since it was relaunched as we are buying better, and sales are also up as it all looks so appetising,” Guy says. “In fact, the deli counter alone now accounts for almost 4% of total sales and is worth more than £500,000 a year. It’s a big category and it’s interesting that in a world where so many stores are racing towards self-scan tills, shoppers enjoy being served at the deli counter and engaging with staff.

“It’s important to have the right people on the counter, though; they need to be passionate and well versed in what they are selling,” Guy adds.

Recognising the need to deliver a real “experience” to shoppers using the deli, staff training was overhauled prior to the launch with all members of the deli team given lessons on the importance of delivering theatre and service. Staff also run daily product tastings, and a bonus scheme has been put in place for the delicatessen supervisors.

Keen to bolster this sense of in-store theatre, Guy is also planning to open a 300sq ft Cook shop-within-a-shop towards the rear of the store this year.

“If it all goes to plan it should be a really engaging space. There will be lots of product tastings and it’s all working towards our goal of being ‘famous for food’,” Guy adds.

Other plans include the possible opening of an in-store café, which would no doubt prove popular with the store’s new hand car wash customers.

But back to 2014, which also saw Guy and Jerry totally overhaul the store’s bakery section with a greater emphasis placed on natural merchandising. Additional artisanal lines were also added, along with extra display tables to promote locally-produced and in-store baked lines.

The store’s fresh range, which includes ‘Catch of the Day’ fresh fish, now accounts for just over 45% of sales and is made up of an array of Budgens and local products.

Local products such as fresh meats from the Cotswold Farmer and frozen ready meals from The Cotswold Traiteur are merchandised in impactful standalone displays as well as in among their categories. Where this is the case, they are set apart with bespoke POS featuring the stories behind them.

Shelf-edge messaging plays a key role throughout the store, but comes into its own within the impressive shop-within-a-shop alcohol section. The wood-panelled area is dotted with engaging shelf-edge labels which detail the provenance and tasting notes of wines, Champagnes and increasingly popular Proseccos. Many are written by the local wine merchants Vinology, and do a cracking job of justifying the prices of the more costlier fine wines.

However, recognising the need to balance the range with a value for money offering, Guy also boosted the store’s promotional mix in 2014. The ‘Budgens Simply Good Value’ message is clearly communicated in the main chilled and ambient grocery aisles with a vast array of £1, £2 and £3 prices.

At more than 9,000sq ft the store’s luxury of space allows it to build elaborate and attention-grabbing product displays - one of which is always promotion-led.

However, despite its increased promotional mix, the store’s gross margin has risen by 0.21% in the past year. The recent swell of investment has also led to a 2% rise in total sales and customer transactions are up 750 a week on average.

Even more commendable is the fact that all of these positives have been achieved despite an increase in local competition, including a large Waitrose supermarket in nearby Stratford on Avon - proof that giving shoppers ‘more reasons to visit’ leads to more money in the bank - and more awards for the mantelpiece.


All about reputation

Part of Warner’s Budgens success is down to its involvement with customers and community.

From regular in-store tastings to inspire shoppers about the products made on their doorstep, to charitable donations, the store takes every opportunity to get involved.

Included among this is full sponsorship of the local school’s breakfast club to ensure that children get a healthy start to the day. The store has also created its own National Curriculum-based module called the Bread Scheme of Work, which allows teachers to run a project on bread.

Meanwhile, the Warner’s Budgens Community Savings Scheme sees vast sums donated to local good causes each year. For every £10 spent in-store customers receive a token which they can deposit in collection boxes for their chosen charities. Last year the scheme helped provide 50 Christmas hampers to local needy families.

The store also sponsors the Moreton Rangers Football Club and the Local Food Tent at the Moreton Agricultural Show.