Sid and Sukhi Sidhu have revamped their store under the Budgens fascia. With a coffee bar and gourmet ready meal range, the couple target 50% of turnover from chilled by 2020. Ed Chadwick finds out more

Nothing happens by chance at St John’s Budgens in Kenilworth.

With a background in software, it is unsurprising Sid adopts a scientific approach to management. This might typically see the pair analysing market research surveys in tandem with EPoS figures or working with a supplier to calculate spend per shelf.

But since beginning their convenience retail journey in 2013, the couple have learned there really is no substitute for time on the shop floor to help inform decisions – so that is where they are determined to spend the majority of their time.

With the pre-collapse supply issues of Palmer & Harvey affecting business last year, the Sidhus began their hunt for a new partner, settling on the Budgens fascia. A £40,000 refit later, the 2,000sq ft store is beginning a new chapter.

Sid and Sukhi opened the doors of the refreshed store earlier this month and are waiting to see the impact, but their painstaking attention to detail gives them confidence they have struck the right notes.

“I wanted a partner to help streamline the business to give us more time to focus on execution,” says Sid. 

“The breadth and depth of range is better than we had before, so I’m not spending time using different suppliers to fill gaps.”

Sid and Sukhi spent time researching a new symbol partner and were drawn to Budgens for the support it could offer to grow their chilled sales. With 25m of chilled space and the category now responsible for 30% of turnover, it is an area they earmarked for investment. 

Premium ready meals from Gourmade were introduced earlier this year and the company contributed bespoke PoS as part of the refit. This has helped to boost sales on the range, which retails for as much as £7.50 for a meal for two before adding accompaniments or dessert.

The next step will be to revamp the store’s cold storage by the end of 2018 and grow the in-store bakery range to include more artisan bread. By 2020, Sid is targeting a combined 50% contribution to turnover from chilled and bakery.

The new layout reflects this aim. “We found the old layout formulaic and everything we’ve learned since opening in 2014 told us we needed to tweak it,” says Sid. “Budgens were a great help in looking at profit per shelf and with the redesign, we ended up with an extra 3.75m of shelving.

“Research told us we needed to become more mission-based and we’ve second-sited an extra freezer for Häagen-Dazs next to the wine chiller for ‘Big Night In’ shoppers.”

An ongoing focus for the store has been its alcohol range. With a wealthy customer base made up of commuters who travel to London and Birmingham, Sid and Sukhi have been able to introduce premium-priced wines and a range of more than 20 gins.

The wine range runs to bottles priced as high as £30, and those over £10 contribute up to £1,000 per week. Sid ensures the store is a destination by offering not only an extensive range, but equipping himself with knowledge by attending wine courses arranged by suppliers including Concha y Toro.

“I’ve focused on learning about grape varieties and making sure I can offer advice to customers on food pairings,” he says. “With some training, you can begin to educate customers. That way, you haven’t just made a sale, you’ve also won their trust for the future.” 

The final piece of the jigsaw was a coffee bar which allows customers to enjoy a hot drink in-store while charging their devices.

“It’s on castors so we can remove it to create space or position it so we can do tastings and add in-store theatre,” says Sid. “We previously had seating outside, but this gives us more control and will add value to the business.” 

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