Jonathan Fraser’s family business has always strived to provide the best standard of convenience retailing. He tells Chris Rolfe why working with Budgens has helped take a big step towards this goal.

This is a convenience store first, a forecourt second and we aspire to be like Waitrose,” Jonathan Fraser tells RN as he embarks on a tour of his Budgens at Three Mile Cross in Berkshire.

The store is one of six in Oxfordshire and Berkshire owned by the Fraser family. A “tiny shop the size of a postage stamp” when it was bought in 2015, it was transformed into a modern Budgens last year.

While Jonathan says developing “shops that sell fuel” was always a family goal, Marks & Spencer’s ongoing expansion in the forecourt sector has raised the bar in terms of store quality and customer expectations.

Much of the 3,000sq ft store’s ambitious development, therefore, has involved working with Budgens and local suppliers to create a quality shopping experience based on fresh produce, food to go, local ranges and concessions, making the business a destination for affluent locals and fuel-buying customers.

Fortunately for the Frasers, their refit came at the same time as Budgens undertook a significant revamp of its fresh, food to go and overall store package.

“Fresh has always been our focus, and I wanted to grow that. When Booker bought Budgens I was worried the range would go downhill, but we’ve got more products now, including Discover the Choice and Charlie Bigham’s, and it’s made a huge difference,” says Jonathan. “We’ve got a better range of ready meals and pizzas, with a two for £5 offer across Booker’s Discover the Choice, and the Farm Fresh range is better quality and has better pricing, availability and dates, so we’ve got wastage on meat down to between 4% and 5%.”

Changes to the Budgens contract, which free retailers from having to source 95% of their stock centrally, mean Jonathan’s extensive fresh aisle also boasts a vast selection of local products, supported by PoS to introduce each supplier.

Alongside this is a Cook concession featuring meals for two at around £8, meals for one at £4-£5 and new desserts including a Mojito Cheesecake.

When Booker bought Budgens I was worried the range would go downhill, but we’ve got more products now, including Discover the Choice and Charlie Bigham’s, and it’s made a huge difference

“We have a lady who buys Cook products by the trolley-load. I want as many of these concessions as possible,” says Jonathan, pointing out similar stands selling premium quality Purbeck Ice Cream and Laithwaite’s wine.

Jonathan has also tapped into several other convenience trends to drive sales growth.

In food to go, fresh baguettes, croissants and other bakery items sit beside two coffee machines that sell approximately 200 cups a day, while a lunchtime meal deal is growing in popularity thanks to an improved choice of sandwiches.

“We replaced Ginsters sandwiches with Urban Eat since Booker started supplying them. They are part of a Budgens-exclusive ‘£4 or less’ meal deal and since the change we’ve seen a 20% uplift in sales,” says Jonathan. “Around 16% of people now buy a meal deal if they buy a sandwich.”

Craft lager and protein products were also added to the store this year, alongside a widened gluten-free range.

“I’ve been looking at this since I came into the business eight years ago because my wife is gluten-intolerant,” he says. “We sell premium products from local suppliers such as Holly’s Fine Food and Easy Bean.”

Jonathan clearly believes he’s got the balance right – able to work with a partner like Booker to compete on price and range with Marks & Spencer and Waitrose while utilising his local knowledge and Budgens’ in-built flexibility to beat them to the latest must-have trends. 

“We’re 20% up year on year because more people are noticing us. We have great ranges and promotions and are giving people more reasons to shop here. I tell my staff we might not be Waitrose yet, but it’s our goal to be.” 

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