The summer of 2012 has been crammed with more opportunities for convenience store retailers to celebrate than a London tube train taking tourists to the Olympic Games. And celebrate they have. June saw stores across the country bring out the bunting for an array of Diamond Jubilee celebrations, followed by Euro 2012, the Wimbledon tennis championships, and Independents’ Day on July 4.
However, thanks to an initiative launched at this year’s National Convenience Show (NCS) in March, a handful of lucky retailers received a little extra financial help to plan some truly spectacular community get-togethers.
Retailers attending the show were invited to tell C-Store about their ideas for a community event that would help build positive engagement between their store and the community, with the aim of winning half the funding for it.
But it wasn’t just money that was on offer. The NCS Community Fund prize also included the chance to receive a mentoring session from two experienced community retailers on how to get the most out of their event.
After much deliberation, the following three retailers were chosen to receive the funding boost, with the first two events held over the Diamond Jubilee weekend. The sky may have been overcast but, as the following pages show, spirits were anything but damp.
Warners’ Budgens, Gloucestershire
Over in Gloucestershire, Budgens retailer Guy Warner also planned a poster competition for the three primary schools local to his Moreton-in-Marsh, Broadway and Bidford-On-Avon stores.
His idea, which involved the winner from each school being awarded £250 to spend on a Jubilee party for their class, earned him £525 from the NCS Community Fund.
“It was such great fun judging all the posters, although it took an age to clean up all the glitter left behind afterwards!” laughs Guy. “We then spent the best part of a day displaying all of the entries in each of the stores. Simply doing this created a great atmosphere as the kids and parents came in to see their posters on display.
“We didn’t insist that the schools spent the money in our stores, but as we had so much wonderful jubilee-themed stock including big name brands and local products, most of that money did go on our food, drink and party accessories. Each of the winning classes went round the stores with their shopping lists for party cakes and drinks. It was really sweet.”
Guy adds: “One of the schools’ parties coincided with a ‘Victorian Seaside Day’, so most of the children were dressed up in old-fashioned clothing, which added extra merriment to the day, and certainly made for some funny photographs!”
He also acknowledges that events such as these aren’t just about the sales. “It’s just such a great feeling to be involved with the community and see how much enjoyment you can bring to people. The goodwill that it generated was amazing and we’re really grateful to the NCS Community Fund organisers and C-Store for helping us to do it.”
Nisa Local Pensfold, Shrewsbury
Rav wanted to recognise his staff’s achievements publicly, so he decided to organise a community celebration for Independents’ Day (July 4). He explains: “My staff come from diverse communities and backgrounds and have recently completed their apprenticeships and gained qualifications. So an ideal way of showcasing their skills and diversity, while simultaneously engaging with customers, was through an ethnic cooking day.”
All six of the full-time staff produced a range of dishes reflecting their backgrounds, such as samosas, curries, spring rolls, English scones, bubble and squeak and Indian desserts.
“The idea was that everyone pitched in. It showed that each member of staff is part of the business,” says Rav. “It was also a way of communicating our independence - something local shops don’t often do well enough. This was a way of showing we’re not like the mults.”
The event was also an effective way for the staff to engage better with the customers. Says Rav: “We wanted to show that our staff don’t just stand at the tills saying ‘£2.50 please’. This is a great talking point - I hate it when people come in and just ask about the weather.”
What’s more, the store was giving something back to the community by providing a free lunch - a line of customers queued up to taste the delicious food.
By celebrating the staff’s credentials, Rav hoped to inspire some of the young people in his community. “I want to inspire people to train and learn, and positively change their lives. The primary school has nearly 400 children, some of whom come from different backgrounds, and I want them to inspire their children and meet employees who are positive role models.”
Independents’ Day was the highlight of a week-long celebration of his staff and the store’s community involvement. Other events included wine tasting, and a session by a local pork supplier to show off its products.
“We’ve done similar events with the Jubilee and Royal Wedding and so on. It’s all about in-store theatre,” Rav adds.
The final word goes to Pat, a long-standing Irish employee. “It’s a way of showing we’re more than just a regular shop. We’re part of the community - we’re part of them, and they’re part of us.”
Londis Tachbrook Road, Leamington Spa
Londis retailer Sunder was awarded £600 from the NCS Community Fund towards a huge Jubilee fun day for two local schools. “The two schools have an adjoining playing field so we thought that it would be a great idea to unite them for the first time in a mass Jubilee celebration,” Sunder explains. “I attended a meeting with the Parent Teacher Association and we decided to organise an event that would bring together not only the 335 children, but also local residents and families.”
In addition to food and drink, Sunder says the plan was to offer an array of fun activities such as bouncy castles, sumo suits, space hoppers, a steel band, raffle, face painting and much more. “The bouncy castle alone was going to cost £110 to hire, and seeing as we wanted all the activities to be free I jumped at the chance to win some funding,” Sunder continues.
And as if space hoppers and welly-wanging aren’t exciting enough, Sunder thought he’d spice up proceedings further by launching a competition to design a poster advertising the fun day.
“My plan was to award a prize to the best poster from each of the school’s three classes, with an additional top prize for the overall winner. Each prize winner would receive a family ticket to the Eden Project, and the overall winner would receive the additional prize of a family ticket to Cadbury World.
“I reviewed all of the entrants, which was great fun, before displaying my final shortlist of 24 in the store. This alone created a great buzz as children and parents came in to view their work.”
The competition winners were announced on the day itself, and the top prize went to 11-year-old Abbie Collett, of St Patricks School.
“The whole thing was a raging success, the rain stayed away, and a great time really was had by all. I had so many thank-yous on the day and have since had loads of letters from parents, teachers and the children, all of whom are also customers of mine.”
Sunder continues: “Of course, events like this are good for business, but it’s about so much more than that for me. I love getting involved in things like this. It’s really satisfying and creates a wonderful sense of community cohesion that you would never achieve otherwise. The Diamond Jubilee and all the happy events that went along with it will stay with these kids for ever, and that’s largely because of our store, which makes me really proud.”