Following a gruelling few months with the refit, it’s definitely time for a holiday – and part of me would rather spend two weeks on a beach than travelling around North India! But it’s important to take a step back and look at things again with fresh eyes.
We’re at a point now where everything’s in place in the store, be it the systems or the culture. It’s been a bit of a learning curve for everyone here; we now have a much larger fresh and chilled section and a Post Office, so it’s much bigger and there are two queues to deal with. Everyone’s needed to step up.
Sales are up by 20%, so we’re right on course. I would have been disappointed if we hadn’t hit the target, but it’s very positive for us. There’s still scope to further increase sales as the shop hasn’t matured completely.
We’ve virtually doubled our chilled turnover, having increased the space by 80%. Fresh meats and yogurts tend to be a challenge, but the warm weather’s helping a lot. Ready meals are doing very well, but there’s a certain amount of wastage for us to deal with.
What’s surprising, though, is how everything across the shop is moving – frozen has doubled even though we haven’t expanded the category. It’s obviously down to people’s perceptions.
Off licence is also doing very well, which has been helped by the football. Only newspapers and tobacco are static, but I’m not overly concerned about that.
My next plan is to take it to the next level with some in-store theatre, and to expand the local offering. I’ve been speaking to women in the village who run cottage industries; one makes her own curries and the other makes speciality bread. Their products aren’t stocked anywhere else so I’m thinking of selling them in the store. It’s a great way to support your local community.
On a final note, we recently had a VAT compliance visit from HMRC. They were very supportive, so I want to reassure retailers that they do have good intentions! You are entitled to claim the VAT back on store extensions, so given the size of the VAT bill it is understandable that retailers get concerned about retrieving that money.