Building on nearly 30 years of great service and local goodwill, David Robertson decided to take an ambitious step forward with his store two years ago. He tells Chris Rolfe how he balanced the store’s legacy with his plans

“Pozzi is the magnet store of Buckie – everyone comes here,” a local bank manager told David Robertson 20 years ago.

But while David valued this praise for the newsagents his family has run since 1988, he also recognised a challenge within it.

“Successful stores are integral to their communities and must be so to survive and thrive. That’s true of this store, but for this to continue we had to change because peoples’ shopping habits and tastes have,” he says.

Over its 29-year history, the store has been regularly updated, moving from “a newsagent with bootlaces and combs and cards in shoeboxes” when the family took it on to one whose specialisms include magazines and the cards and gifts section David’s mum Lynda has built.

David and his father James have also developed an HND service covering a 12-mile radius with more than 1,000 customers.

If CTNs don’t change, they won’t be there in a few years’ time. I’ve not given up being a newsagent, but I want to be a newsagent of the 22nd century

“Newspapers are the cornerstone of the business in terms of footfall drivers, even though sales are falling,” says David. “So many retailers opt out of HND but it’s really important.”

But two years ago, with this drop in traditional print sales, the shop looking “tired”, and new opportunities such as coffee, fresh food and ice cream ripe for adoption, David decided it was time for an ambitious overhaul.

He embarked upon a “back to bricks” refit, working to redesign the store with Fusion, Axiom and CP & Co.

David was keen for store standards to match those shoppers experience in shopping malls and have come to expect elsewhere.

So neutral LED lighting creates a daylight feel and a new floor unites different sections, such as the specialist jewellery, gifts, books and traditional CTN ranges. The shop is also fully accessible for disabled people, with a ramp, toilet and wide aisles.

Standout new sections include a coffee shop, seating area and a 12-scoop ice cream range. Fresh soup, scones, cakes, sandwiches, wraps, paninis and ice cream sundaes are made in-house every day, and the store has sit-in and takeaway menus.

David Robertson

“It is great to have added coffee, food to go and ice cream because this is something entirely new. It’s also a new revenue stream which will help recoup some of the investment and profit lost from traditional news, tobacco and stationery sales,” David says.

While David has innovated the store, he has also remained loyal to his roots. During the refit, he improved the display units and lighting in the 10-year-old costume jewellery section, “bringing it to the same level as many ‘proper’ jewellers”.

He also used sales and returns data supplied by Menzies to update his magazines range, reducing display space from 20 metres to 2.4 metres and bringing it in line with current shopping habits.

“That helped us cut our range and plan a display that highlights best-selling titles like Take a Break and TV listings,” he says. “But we still order and do shop saves, so people who like British Rail Modeller or Practical Poultry can still buy them. It just means I have less money tied up in magazines.”

A feature wall by the coffee shop also lists the areas David’s HND covers, to attract attention to this service.

Two months after the refit, David is assessing the early results of the changes. Sales are now split equally in thirds between newspapers, the coffee shop and cards, gifts and jewellery, and customer numbers are growing.

“We’re attracting a new generation of customers and keeping our older customers too. It will take time for people to associate this building with food and get used to a village store whose design wouldn’t look out of place in a big city,” he says.

Ultimately, his sights are set on the future.

“If CTNs don’t change, they won’t be there in a few years’ time. I’ve not given up being a newsagent, but I want to be a newsagent of the 22nd century,” he says.

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