Just 10 months into their new retail venture, Emma and Pete Berglund’s Simply Fresh store has been named Costcutter Group’s new store of the year. With their personal touches and focus on local, it’s easy to see why.

After acquiring the land and planning to develop residential properties, the couple noticed that Abergavenny was lacking a community store, so they moved into the retail sector.

Location: Abergavenny, South Wales

Hours: 7am-9pm Mon-Sat, 8am-8pm Sun

Staff: 10; a mixture of full- and part-time

Size: 2,800sq ft

Trading since: January 2016

Style: A premium store in an area that attracts tourists and passing trade, with competition from Aldi, Waitrose and Iceland.

“We get a lot of customers who would ordinarily shop in Waitrose,” says Emma. “People tell us they come in because we offer nice extras they can’t get in there.”

But it’s the service in the Berglunds’ store that really makes it unique.

“A lot of customers comment on how friendly our staff are,” Emma says. “The service makes us different to Aldi and the supermarkets.”

“They can’t give people the time that convenience stores can,” adds Pete. “We have one regular who’s in bad physical shape, and when he comes to the store he toots his horn outside so we know to go and help.”

The couple have also worked hard to cement themselves as a community hub by donating to the local hospital’s children’s ward and sponsoring a junior football team.

“Once we get new customers in, they always come back,” Pete says. “A lot of our footfall comes from passing trade. We have a lot of builders working nearby, and they come in here to grab a quick breakfast.”

“Now and then we put a breakfast meal deal on,” Emma adds. “We pair breakfast turnovers or pastries with coffees, and they go really well. On Sunday mornings, customers queue for our freshly-baked croissants.”

Their lunch meal deal includes a sandwich, crisps, drink and a snack for £4 – but Emma admits they found creating a dinner offer more difficult.

“We recently started stocking homemade ready meals from the local butcher,” she says. “We did a lot of research before approaching them, but we’d rather wait for something really good. It’s paid off, because our orders have increased.”

Curries produced in Birmingham are also among their bestsellers. Shoppers can buy them bagged as a complete meal with rice and a mini naan bread for £3.49.

“For less than £3.50, you couldn’t make that yourself if you bought all the ingredients,” says Pete. “And it’s great quality.”

Emma says they’re very competitive with the multiples when it comes to the balance between quality and low prices. “People will pay for quality. We’ve put the price of the curries up and they’re still flying out,” she says.

Pete adds that the store layout has helped the couple cater for a variety of shopper missions.

“The symbol group helped us with the layout,” he says. “It’s helped us get our average basket spend up to £7.”

Part of the merchandising’s success comes from theatrical extras the Berglunds have added. Children can pick up miniature shopping baskets as they enter, and cards placed strategically around the store tell shoppers the story of their products’ origins.

“Customers like to find out where our products come from,” Emma says.

“Local products really appeal to our shoppers,” says Pete. “We believe that if we support our local community, they’ll support us.”

“That’s one thing we liked about Simply Fresh,” Emma adds. “We wanted to be able to offer a lot of local produce and not be 100% tied down to one supplier.”