Retailer profile: David and Kate Deacon

When David and Kate opened The Shoulder of Mutton pub in 2004, they made a commitment to play a big part in village life.

Five years later they diversified and opened a store next door – The Shoulder Shop, which offers the residents of affluent Kirkby Overblow their daily top-up essentials as well as locally sourced meat, fine wine and delicacies.

“You have to make a decision whether to get involved with the community or not,” says David.

“It’s a choice you have to make.”

And they certainly have gotten involved. David, who is also a chef, runs high teas in the pub especially for concerts at All Saints Church, and this year he and Kate are putting on the Bollywood evening at the three-yearly Kirkby Overblow Summer Arts Festival, complete with marquee. There is also a cello evening to cater for in October, and they support the church and All Saints C of E School by selling tickets for their events over the counter in the shop. They also run a prescriptions service for residents.

The Shoulder Shop, David and Kate Deacon

Location: Kirkby Overblow, near Harrogate, Yorkshire

Hours: 9am – 6pm Monday to Sunday

Staff: Four

Size: 300sq ft

Trading started: March 2009

Style: A village convenience store-cum-farm shop next door to the pub that David and Kate run. Located in an affluent Yorkshire village with a primary school and a church which stages regular concerts. No immediate competitors and Sainsbury’s is a 10-mile round trip away

“As a business in the village we benefit from doing all these things,” says David.

By pulling in trade through these activities, they are able to maintain shop margins of 35% as a rule of thumb.

Their customers comprise a mix of passing trade, residents, builders (there is always construction work being done somewhere in Kirkby Overblow), or hungry cyclists stopping in for a calorific shortbread slice before peddling on into the Yorkshire hills.

They offer hot tea and coffee, and freshly made sandwiches. Among their most popular food-to-go options are the homemade caramel slices for £1.20, and hot pork pie and peas for £1.75 and hot steak pie and peas for £2. It is an attractive price point to keep their builder customers coming back again and again.

As former category winners in Newtrade’s Independent Achievers Academy, David and Kate know the value of good presentation, and their unique shelving in The Shoulder Shop was created with Ikea furniture. It wouldn’t work for every retailer, but here it fits brilliantly, making it look somewhere between a shop and a gallery – perfect for a shop with such a big focus on gifts.

David and Kate employ a four-strong shop team that staff the shop during the day and play a hand in running the business.

Currently 90% of products come from within 25 miles of the village – a definite advantage when provenance is such an important trend in the foodservice market. But now one of the team’s biggest challenges today, and also opportunities, is to bring in more regular trade from the village. This is down to tweaking the range.

Team member Denise Allanson says: “When we first opened we were very much focused on the niche market – luxury lines you can’t buy in the supermarket.

“Now we are turning the emphasis to everyday lines to get the local people in more. We need to be a convenience store as well as a farm shop.”

Top Tips

1 Offer hot food to go at attractive price points. Builders’ favourites are their hot pork pie and peas for £1.75 and hot steak pie and peas for £2

2 Shout about what you do. David and Kate provide catering for village events and concerts. It’s a great way to market your business

3 Be creative and give your customers solutions. At Christmas they offer wicker gift hampers starting from “£7 or £8 for a couple of jam jars”

They are doing this by methodically asking customers what they want and keeping a record of requests, plus trialling new, less glamorous lines, like Happy Shopper disinfectant.

There is always something on the horizon for the business, though – and next up is the 2014 Tour de France, which will see the riders setting off from nearby Harrogate.

The authorities have relaxed the camping rules to attract cycling fans and David is considering opening up the paddock behind the pub as a camp ground.

“It’s all grist to the mill and we have to be ready for it,” he says.


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