Staying ahead of the competition but at the heart of the community is a balancing act that Welsh retailer Conrad Davies has down to a fine art. By adding a Subway franchise and working with his fellow retailers, his stores are thriving. Steven Lambert reports

For Conrad Davies, the key to running a successful convenience business is careful management of big name franchises and smaller suppliers to give customers the best of both worlds.

The retailer has spent nearly two decades building up close relationships with local producers to offer an impeccable fresh food offering, while also gaining support from well-known high street franchises to draw in extra footfall and grow sales.

Having spent time as a landscape designer, Conrad came to help his father in the Pwllheli family business in 1996 and, in his own words, “never really left”.

 <figcaption>Conrad’s careful management of big name franchises and smaller suppliers gives his customers the best of both worlds</figcaption>” height=”300″ src=”” width=”199″> Conrad’s careful management of big name franchises and smaller suppliers gives his customers the best of both worlds</figure><p>Eighteen years later, he now owns three Eurospar stores in north Wales, located in Dolgellau, Pwllheli and Blaenau Ffestiniog, along with a Spar Express forecourt site, a post office and a meat business supplying pubs and other convenience stores.</p><p>It is at the Pwllheli Eurospar where Conrad has made some major changes recently, having just taken on a Subway franchise. He explains: “We had a café above the store which was doing okay but not brilliantly, and we had competition from the likes of Costa Coffee coming in.</p><p>“I had looked at Subway and initially thought it wouldn’t work. But then I stepped back and thought that we really needed to attract more of a younger demographic to the business.</p><p>“I rang Subway and originally they said no, but then I invited them down and they soon changed their minds.”</p><p>With a 45-seat Subway business now sitting above his 5,000sq ft c-store, Conrad says trade has been booming since it opened in December.</p><p>“We’d planned for around £3,500 turnover a week and we took £13,000 in the first week. That’s settled down now to around £5,000, but I expect we will hit £10,000 over the summer.</p><p>“We’re now adding a six seat Subway at Blaenau, as well as launching a number of standalone stores.”</p><p>Persistence also paid off when it came to convincing local suppliers to get involved in his three convenience stores.</p><p>“We had some local businesses that were a bit reticent at the start but we worked on it and showed them around the store. Now we work with more than 70 suppliers and do a lot of sampling and promotions.</p><p>[pull_quote_right]We hold a Welsh Food and Drink Fortnight to promote local products, and we now have 16 other stores involved in the event[/pull_quote_right]</p><p>“We hold a Welsh Food and Drink Fortnight to promote local products, and we now have 16 other stores involved in the event. We also have a Mexican restaurant nearby and we’ve finally convinced the owner to start stocking his range of ready meals and sauces in our shop, which we’ll be doing from this month.”</p><p>“It’s a double win because we’re supporting local companies and they’re supporting us. It’s good for the community.”</p><p>To promote the business further, Conrad has also invested in TV ads after agreeing a deal with Welsh language channel S4C.</p><p>“S4C approached a number of businesses just over two years ago and said they wanted to get involved more with local communities.</p><p>“We were able to secure a grant for £2,000 and paid £1,000 ourselves towards the ad. It went well and attracted a lot of business, so we invested £8,000 to do it again last year, and we’re back on TV this year as well.”</p><p>The extra exposure certainly seems to be paying off, with average basket spend at Pwllheli at a healthy £7, rising to around £12 at the Dolgellau store where Dom Perignon champagne, lobsters and other high-end goods are available to cater to affluent customers.</p><p>Looking to the future, Conrad says he is looking into online shopping in a bid to stay competitive against the multiples.</p><p>“We’ve seen the supermarkets go big on this and we want to do something beyond click and collect. It’s something we’re speaking to Spar about at the moment.”</p><p>He adds: “That’s the best thing about being an independent. I can work with a big name like Spar or Subway and have their name above the door, but at the end of the day I can still be entrepreneurial about the business.”</p><h2>Visit my Shop</h2><p><iframe loading=