The ‘bust,’ or ‘credit crunch’ as we now refer to it, was always an inevitability so the events of 2008 have been challenging, but I have come through reasonably unscathed. My year-on-year sales were up 5.7%, and my margins remained the same, so the increased bottom line has helped cover rises in wage bills, energy and fuel costs. It was interesting to watch the multiples’ response to the credit crunch; they all introduced value lines and began focusing on price. I feared that they might lure more customers away from my stores, but I found many customers preferred to shop locally on a daily basis as they found it easier to control their spending this way.
I had also been stocking the Booker Euro Shopper range for some time, so the new multiple value lines didn’t have as much impact.
This year I plan to focus on the one key strength we have in the convenience sector – service. My stores see a high percentage of regular customers, so it’s important that I give them a friendly shopping experience while meeting their needs on product range and value.
I’ve adopted something I picked up watching entrepreneur Theo Paphitis on TV’s Dragons’ Den. He used the phrase ‘Retail is Detail’, which encompasses everything that is so critical to running my stores successfully, from stock rotation and display through to staff appearance.
I use the phrase at every opportunity and on every piece of internal documentation, even payslips. It will be used to guide us in reviewing all our procedures and practises to ensure we provide all our customers with the highest level of service possible.