Retailer Profile: Alison & Mike Neal, Cambridge Road Convenience store

Retailer profile. When they are not hard at work on the shop floor, Alison and Mike Neal are busy rehearsing for their next performance.

When they are not hard at work on the shop floor, Alison and Mike Neal are busy rehearsing for their next performance as tribute act The Dark Side of Pink Floyd.

And their ability to put on a great show is obvious in their store, which is immaculately laid out, with shelf-barkers at every turn shouting about the superb deals they have on.

If the price is right then people really do notice’

With lots of local competition, they had started to lose some of their valued customers because of their prices, and this is what prompted them to join Premier .

“Our margins were being squeezed and the prices were too high,” says Alison.

“But people are responding really well to our changes and if the prices are better, people do notice.”

To illustrate to their shoppers how much their prices have come down since they joined Premier, Alison has put out in front of the till two typical household shop baskets comparing the same items at their old prices (£23.13) with the new (£15.57).

Perhaps the biggest change has been the introduction of price-marked packs – something they had never tried before. The PMPs are working a treat and the promotions are starting to fly off the shelf.

“We’ve started delivering leaflets in the area and people always mention these when they come into the shop, which is good,” says Alison.

Their typical customer is aged above 40, affluent and retired, but Mike explains how those are some of the most discerning shoppers when it comes to price.

“We lost about 20% of our footfall in the past four or five years,” he says.

“But our new EPoS system is really helping us by making things easier. Our biggest sellers are alcohol, cigarettes and fresh food.”

Stella is their best selling beer and any wines they sell at two for £6 tend to be very popular. In core household groceries there has been a big shift in price, with a jar of Dolmio they previously sold for £2.85 now price-marked at £1.89.

However, offering deals is about more than just prices and promotions.

Alison uses her creative flair to prepare special packages for Valentine’s and Mother’s Day shoppers, wrapping fizzy wine and chocolate up in an attractive paper bundle with flowers. The deal they do with a box of Thorntons chocolates for £5 is extremely popular.

“If you don’t put it there in front of men, they won’t buy it,” says Alison.

“But if you wrap it up nicely it makes all the difference. If you don’t wrap it for them they think, ‘How am I going to do this?’”

Alison and Mike are keen community members and support as many causes as they can, from helping out the amateur gardeners’ club to being part of Neighbourhood Watch. Their spirit of involvement rubs off on the staff, whose friendly manner makes the shoppers feel welcome.

“Our staff are very friendly and always take that little bit of extra time with the customers,” says Alison.

Mike says it can be a bit of a balancing act, however, getting the right blend of feeling like a family business and a professional store.

The next step will be to ratchet up the efforts to reach more potential customers by advertising in the local newspaper and increasing the size of the area where their leaflets are dropped.


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