Mierscourt Farm General Store & Off Licence

Rainham, Kent

3,300 sq ft

Richard Dunderdale and Sam O’Brien decided that if they wanted to make a difference in retail, they’d have to quit their jobs at Tesco and start their own retail business.

Richard says: “I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, because I wanted to do a good job for my customers and wasn’t able to. I realised that if I wanted to make a difference, I couldn’t do it there.”

Five years later, the partners’ blend of convenience, farm and foodservice retailing is going from strength to strength. “When we first acquired the store, we had expectations of growing our weekly sales and we did, and then it just kept growing.”

“It plateaued only recently and I’m actually quite thankful as it will give us a chance to collect ourselves and work out what’s next,” he says.

Historically a farm supplies store, the new owners continued to pivot the business towards convenience and food to go, adding ice cream and coffee, as well as hot dog, slush, and cash machines, an e-cigarette display, PayPoint, Lottery services and food-to-go lines. 

Richard says the changes were possible by working with reps and using their ideas. “The previous owners were anti-rep. We’ve really embraced them to make use of their knowledge of what’s working elsewhere.”

Summer sales have been driven by the addition of customer seating outside. “When we bought the shop the benches came with it. Using them as customer seating has been fantastic. It absolutely helps trade and it’s great to see families using them in the summer,” he says. 

In winter, farm supplies keep the business strong. “Horse feed sales are really high because they are kept inside and aren’t grazing,” he says. “Impulse purchasing is really popular here. People will grab a coffee, a sandwich, a drink and a chocolate bar at the same time and it means we don’t really get strong seasonal revenue changes.”

Despite overall success, the retailers still paid dearly for an early mistake. “Three attempted break-ins really took their toll.  The first one, shortly after we took over the shop, was the worst. The back wasn’t secure and they went for the safe.  There was no alarm system, it was complacency really. Because it hadn’t happened to us we thought we didn’t have to deal with it,” he says.

“We’ve really doubled down on security. We’ve introduced security fog, bollards at the front, CCTV, window bars and alarms.”

The plan for the future is to invest in new chillers to save energy and potentially extend their licensed hours, but also to get their work-leisure balance right. “It took two years before I had a day off, but things are getting better now.”

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