Recently, the local schools have been taking part in Fairtrade Fortnight. As we work closely with them, we had a group of 30 pupils visit the store for a project to look at the range of Fairtrade products for sale.

It was a good experience for them, but also for us. I didn’t realise we sell so many Fairtrade products so am now more aware of what we stock. This kind of work is important because we have a school nearby, but parents drive straight past us to get to it, so it raises awareness of us among the kids and the parents, while also helping the school.

We need to do more at Budgens to build links with our community.
There are schools nearby and one way we might work with them is by partnering with local businesses to raise funds for them. We’ve already built ties with some firms – a cafe buys products from us, for example, and a hairdresser gets their magazines from us – but I think there is a lot more we can do.

One thing that has been successful with Londis, for example, is working with neighbouring estate agents. When a house is bought, we supply a welcome basket containing between £5 and £20 worth of products and a leaflet advertising the store. We include bread, milk, coffee and wine, and some essentials from the SuperValu range. If we know they are moving in on a certain day I’ll take the basket myself, introduce myself as being from the local store, and say that we work with the estate agent.

There are a lot of estate agents near to Budgens and I’ve been speaking to some of them. It’s free marketing for us, but it can quickly attract new customers.

In the past month I’ve also attended Londis’ conference. It was a great chance to talk to other retailers.  They are so open and many of the ideas you pick up are really simple, such as merchandising baked beans with bread.

It was also good to be updated on what they are doing. Londis has been working on centralised distribution and I’ve been involved in a trial whereby all products are delivered on one lorry. It’s helped because we can plan our orders better and we’re not holding on to unnecessary back-up stock as a result. They are rolling that out in the next month.

Londis’ web shop is also working well. We were told there will be more developments on this in the next year, but recent changes have helped to simplify processes in-store so far. They launched internet-based ordering last year, for example. Before, you just had product names and barcodes. Now you get more detailed information on the products you’re ordering, such as whether they are gluten-free, low-calorie and so on. We have a large range of gluten-free products so that’s helpful for us. I didn’t know that certain breads and Walkers products are gluten-free, so now I can highlight this to my customers.

It’s made things easier for my staff too. They like this system because it is easy to use. I’ve trained them so they can place orders when I’m out, and I can also make orders remotely or check them online.

Lots of retailers think they have to do it all but this frees me up to focus on other parts of the business.  You have to invest time in training, and people will make mistakes, but sometimes you have to let that happen so they can learn and improve.