As a retailer, if you do nothing you will decline naturally. You’ve got to do something positive just to stay still, and you have to do even more in order to grow.
We might be nine miles from the nearest town, but we can’t take that for granted because customers always have a choice – and they will be in their cars during the day anyway to take kids to school and so on, so it wouldn’t be difficult for them to continue to the shops; there are discounters in Launceston and Bude, and a good Co-op store. I saw a customer of mine in the Co-op before I started the work 18 months ago and he said that he went there because of the opening hours and the fresh food, so I knew I had to open longer hours and boost my fresh range.
So this, and all the years of reading trade magazines such as Convenience Store and visiting shows and other retailers have combined into my translation of what I need to do. When I set about redeveloping our store I knew I had to make it a destination, and by acquiring the next door house and opening our café lounge bar we are now also the village pub and the village coffee shop.
The shop is zoned for customer missions, with fresh and local in their own zones, and I’ve been inspired by places such as Gloucester services in the presentation. Our bakery and fruit & veg were already strong, but we’ve now added theatre.
When you ask ‘What are we famous for?’ the answer is pasties! So we’ve really made some noise about our pasty counter, with the cabinet interrupting shoppers on the corner of the L-shaped counter.
For the foodservice offer, we will take our time and ask customers what they want. Pasties work well by day, but we’ve already been asked for a ‘takeaway’ offer and we think there is huge demand for this. So we might look at burgers and pizzas in due course, but for now we do a ‘bring a plate’ Sunday carvery which has really taken off.
We also understand that what the community needs is a place to meet, eat and drink, and the extra space in the café lounge is available for community use as well as being part of the business; we’ve already seen toddler groups and the local council use it for meetings.