We’re a hyper-rural store and we’re the only convenience store in our local village. We don’t have a core demographic as this changes throughout the day. From opening, we’ll have older customers buying news and mags, transitioning into workers to 1:30 where food to go will be important. Finally, we’ll have the younger consumers buying confectionery and soft drinks, ending the business day will be professionals buying their evening meals. Overall, our key categories are alcohol and tobacco, which drive the bulk of our sales. Since our refit, fresh has become vital and unrivalled.

With convenience stores typically smaller than 2,000sq ft, it means every space and slot must be making you money, and effective ranging means having products on the shelf that sell. If it doesn’t, then you need to ask why. It’s usually two reasons, which are down to customers and whether they think it’s too expensive or don’t want it. If they don’t want it, why are you stocking it? When we did our refit, we looked at our historical data over the past year, accounted for seasonality and any line that hadn’t sold was delisted. Effective ranging also drives profit.

When Covid-19 hit, like many retailers we struggled with availability. What we did was start target own-label across several categories, including fresh. Our range was offering value and premium. We took a lot of risks with overordering, but it meant our availability was maintained when others ran out of stock.

We maintained availability throughout and then used social media to show what we were bringing in each week. Our social media following has almost doubled and now have 1,000 likes on our page. We work with a local sweet supplier who sells 1kg bags of sweets for £12.50 and customers from all over come to us to buy them. We also started to work with unique suppliers, like with our gin range. We redeveloped the area, used new wholesale connections, and started to stock £40 gins, which isn’t normal in convenience stores, so we post about that on social media to drive footfall.

We used to buy everything from Nisa apart from sausages, which are sourced locally. When we went into lockdown, we expanded out to other wholesalers and had to rely on deliveries. In fact, we were receiving 25+ deliveries from all our suppliers. We also order from other symbol groups too, which not only increases availability, but our promotions too. For example, I switched from Nisa to Blakemore for our tobacco products and saved almost £1k.