I write this after having returned from a hectic few days of trade events and shows. It was great to see so many of you at these, and one message that keeps coming through is how everyone in this trade is so close and happy to support each other, which in turn makes our industry stronger.
Although my store project is pretty big and has been a few years in the making, now the build is well under way I am often being asked by customers “What are you doing?” and “What’s that new building going to be?”. My generic answer of ‘coffee shop and bar’ doesn’t really do justice to the seismic shift in consumer behaviour we are seeing, and how what we are doing is quite simply a reaction to that. In the same way that people don’t send faxes and instead use email, what we are doing at Premier Whitstone is simply reacting to the way people eat and live their lives today.
What I am really doing is redeveloping my offering to ensure I have a sustainable business model going into the next 10 years. I hope it will be a destination: a clean, sparkly and new convenient store. I hope to retain my traditional village shop roots with an array of fresh and local foods; offer a village pub where you can meet with others in our community and have a pint of locally-brewed beer; and a café where you can enjoy breakfast or lunch with friends if you don’t have time to stop take your ready to eat food out and eat on the go.
It also needs to be a service point where you can get some cash, pay a bill or post a parcel, or drop off your dry-cleaning. I have had many conversations with people about the pros and cons of ‘services’, in particular PayPoint and Post Office, and how can one truly tell if these services drive not only footfall but associated additional spend? One thing is for sure: both are more a means to an end than a huge commission generator. But with either in my store I am far more likely to become a true ‘destination’ than without.
So that’s what I envisage this new space being, but most of all it will be a new building which I can adapt should trends and my customers’ needs change. Above all, a space where I can try out ideas I have learnt from other retailers, read about in the trade press, or gleaned from a trade event.