Peregrine Retail, which owns five Budgens forecourt stores in the South West, bought its latest site in Kingsclere, Hampshire, 18 months ago and opened in spring this year. Previously, a 1,000sq ft Spar store, the site was redeveloped into a 2,800sq ft c-store and filling station at a cost of £2.5m, including £900,000 for purchase. With the nearest supermarket a 14-mile round trip away, the store was an instant hit, with sales up to £30,000 a week after just 10 weeks. “We always open a new store late February or early March, going into the May bank holiday. We hit the ground running at this time of year,” says managing director John Mason.
Fresh is “exceeding expectations”, accounting for 35% of overall sales which is the highest of any of John’s five sites – and an indicator of the local customer base, he says.
Fruit and veg has been a “particular winner”, with customers presented with a wide range of loose and packaged products.
John attributes the success of fresh to “a very good team” at Budgens, and the right location. “Our customer count in the second week was 7,000, so we’ve got something to work with. And if you get the offer right and range right, and with less competition, then that’s all the ingredients to make it a success,” he says.
Hot food to go includes a wide range of pies, burgers and baps.
As in so many stores, Cook has been a massive success since the store launched.
Sales were so high in the first few weeks that John took the decision to double the space for Cook, which has “literally” doubled sales.
The Cook range now includes meals for four, in addition to meals for one and two, and side dishes.
The Kingsclere site opened with two Costa machines, which John says is unusual. “It usually starts with one and when you hit 100 cups a day they discuss putting in a second,” he says. However, as all the other sites have two machines Costa agreed to install two from day one.
From the opening day the two machines were serving 150 cups a day “which is a tremendous start for the business”, John enthuses.
The off licence has also been a big success, in particular premium wines. The next move is to introduce a fine wine section, for which they’ve sourced a new supplier.
Energy-saving chiller doors are installed throughout the store, with signage on the doors highlighting their efficiencies.
John has not put much focus on local, but locally-produced ales are top sellers.
He welcomes Booker’s proposed buyout of Musgrave. “We were getting a little concerned in terms of the falling numbers of Budgens stores and something needed to change. The market is becoming increasingly competitive and Musgrave didn’t have the economies of scale to be competitive going forward,” he says.
The store also focuses on the value shoper. “People do expect a level of offers and deals, so as much as possible we provide that. But value perception is what’s most important,” he says.
John hopes the Booker deal will result in better margins. “Service levels will only improve, and the range available through Booker is huge,” he adds.
MyHermes is doing well in all five sites. “We can get up to 70 parcels a day - it’s another reason for people to visit. The key thing is having these services from day one.”
Staff development is a big priority. “I believe customer service almost trumps everything else,” he says.