Jay’s Budgens: “We’re serving the individual”

Jay, Nalini and son Pratik Patel completed store overhaul to “put us apart from the competition.”

Jay's Budgens

Jay Nalini and son Pratik Patel celebrated 37 years of convenience retailing with a complete store overhaul in order to build “something that puts us apart from
the competition”.

With extended specialist ranges such as self-serve nuts and pulses, vegetarian foods and free-from products, Pratik tells Retail Express that the relaunch of Jay’s Budgens in south-east London makes it a destination store.

He explains: “We want people to walk past the other stores nearby to get here, so we’ve built in big ranges for a variety of foods. We’re serving the individual while the big boys serve the market.”

The approach is working. “Straight away basket spend has gone up. The items are more expensive, which helps, but footfall is up as well,” he says.

Despite the success, the new format would have been unthinkable when the store originally opened. “They would probably say it was crazy,” says Pratik. “Change is constant, but it comes quicker now than ever before. What we thought a store should be five years ago wouldn’t even be considered now, let alone what we thought 37 years ago.”

Despite changing retail practice, Pratik says his father has always been a local figure and very active in the community. With more than 50 people at the ribbon cutting, including librarians, teachers, church leaders and other local business owners, it’s clear that Jay’s role in the community has also embedded the role of the shop in the local area. “He’s the best PR a business can have,” Pratik says.

An example of this role is given by a customer who tells Retail Express: “We always used to come in here as children because the owners were kinder to us than the other stores. That was 20 years ago and I’ve been shopping here every week since.”

It’s an approach which even extends to dealing with low-level crime. Pratik says: “When people have been caught stealing food, my dad has talked to them and then let them keep the goods. He says to them: ‘if you need supplies, come to us and we’ll give it to you, but don’t steal’.”

“It’s humanity. Business is one thing, but being a local retailer means that you look after the local people,” he adds.

However, just because a store is good for the community, doesn’t instantly entitle a store to success. Pratik explains: “Service is obviously important, but no matter how much people love you, if you haven’t got the products people want at a price they are willing to pay, they will shop elsewhere.”

With new ranging, new layout and a longstanding role in the community, the store owners hope it will continue to tick these boxes, but say the process is never over. “You’ve got to continue to explore the market, see what’s going on in other shops and food fayres. If you’re not doing it, another local shop is,” says Pratik.

Top tips:

Hire a range of ages

Pratik explains: “We’re looking to hire young staff because they are very upbeat, open and intuitive, but we’re also looking for older staff as they give the brand maturity and reliability.”

Put a face to the name

Pratik says: “When Budgens told us to put Dad’s photo outside the shop I thought it would seem arrogant, but people from 20 years ago come in because they remember him. It reinforces the brand.”

Quality ready meals

The new store features eye-catching chillers for the Cook ready meal range. Pratik says: “We’ve had to place a second order already. People know the brand and it sells well.”

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