‘We’re winning customers around to healthy produce’

Shoppers demanding healthy produce choices is a challenge for convenience retailers, but for this shop inside an NHS Hospital, it's an opportunity.

Location: Dewsbury, West Yorkshire

Hours: 8am-7pm Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm Sat-Sun

Staff: Heather and Vikki run the shop, with many volunteers

Size: 800sq ft

Trading since: More than 20 years. Heather joined in July 2006

Shoppers demanding healthy produce choices is a challenge for convenience retailers, but for Heather and Vikki’s shop inside an NHS Hospital, the pressure has turned into an opportunity.

The shop has to adhere to strict NHS health and wellbeing guidelines. These include a ban on price promotions, such as multibuy or money-off deals, in-store adverts and checkout displays for products that are high in fat, salt, sugar and saturates.

In addition, sugary drinks that are included in the upcoming levy are not allowed to be included in meal deals. “It’s a challenge to get a healthy balance, but we are winning our shoppers around,” says Vikki.

The shop has met this balance by expanding its range of water and low-sugar flavoured waters and reducing its high-calorie options, keeping just the bestsellers. They also stock smaller packs to come under the calorie requirements.

“We get the occasional comment, but all shops seem to be getting smaller packs anyway. It’s the way the market is going,” says Heather. “We stock plenty of price-marked packs to make sure that we’re offering the right price for our goods.”

Far from decreasing customers and spend, the push towards healthier options has helped the shop stand out. The team partner with a local provider to run a fruit and veg stand outside the shop twice a week. “It looks like a market stall and it’s very popular with the staff and customers too. It offers great value and great products,” says Vikki.

“We’ve just expanded our range of fresh produce. We started off with just a few lines but now we’re bringing in apples and satsumas because we’re being asked for them. You have to bring it in gradually,” Heather says.

Most of the shop’s profits go back into the hospital, buying essential medical equipment and items to improve life for patients, but the shop also plans to invest more in making their hot food and food to go as good as it can be.

“We need to improve our equipment. We’ve got a five-star hygiene rating so we need to maintain that by investing in new work surfaces, storage, fridges and stock control,” says Vikki. Hospital regulation means that the shop is not allowed a toaster, but the team updated the oven last year to offer toast and toasted teacakes.

“Our volunteers all do basic food hygiene and our staff do level two. Good hygiene is important for us due to our location and our five-star rating makes us trusted,” says Vikki.

Volunteers are an essential part of the operations in the shop, with people from 16 to 90 putting in the hours to serve the hospital community. Facebook and Twitter are becoming an increasingly important way for the shop to bring new people in. The shop must continue to evolve to guidelines and shoppers, but is in a great position for the future.

Top tips:

  • Work with suppliers. “We recently won a competition with Mondelez for the Milk Tray Man to visit our store, which was great fun,” says Heather
  • Tell your story. “We post case studies of our volunteers on Facebook, which do really well,” says Vikki.
  • Look after your shoppers. “We know what are shoppers are after. We stock gift items together so that people can cheer up their loved ones quickly,” says Heather


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