Deliveroo and the supermarket giants might boast about pioneering the home delivery trend, but Anita Nye’s Premier store on Eldred Drive in Orpington was offering the service decades before its online rivals had even started.

The shop has been active in the community since the 1970s and the delivery service it has been providing since then has become essential for elderly customers living nearby. 

“Nearly 80% of our customers are elderly and it can sometimes be very difficult for them to walk to the store,” says Anita. “This is especially true during the winter when the roads become more dangerous. We take orders from a nearby care home a five-minute drive away and it gives us a point of difference. We can chat to the customers when we deliver their groceries and we really get to know them. It’s a personalised service neither the nearby Tesco or Sainsbury’s offer.” 

The home deliveries have benefited the store considerably. Anita receives more than 15 grocery orders weekly, generating at least £500 in additional sales. However, the shop’s community spirit isn’t solely built on deliveries. An £80,000 expansion four years ago increased floor space from 800sq ft to 1,200sq ft, giving it further opportunity to cater to residents’ demands.

“Our other customers are parents and their children or office workers, so the expansion has helped us cater for them in a way we couldn’t have previously,” says Anita. 

“We can now offer meat sourced from a local butcher while there are more chilled drinks on offer for the school children. Chilled is one of our most popular areas because it makes up more than 40% of total sales and the expansion has definitely helped us achieve this.”

Fridge space for chilled drinks and food increased from eight metres to 12 metres during the refit, while nine metres of space has opened up for a new ‘free-from’ section. It’s a move where the benefits have certainly outweighed the costs – the average basket spend and weekly turnover since the expansion has doubled to £9 and £40,000 respectively. 

To operate this enlarged store, staff numbers grew from five to 11, and the team also helps to secure the store’s community links – the store and staff are dressed up alike during events such Christmas and Halloween.

“My husband dresses up as Santa at Christmas and we invite the kids to come into store to give him a list of what presents they want,” Anita says. 

“It usually costs us roughly £100 to have all the displays set up for different seasons, but it’s worth it. The increased footfall raises our sweets sales by 50%.”

The mix of school children and office workers means space becomes a premium, particularly during busy mornings, lunchtimes and evenings. Anita has made small changes to minimise the effect of this, including installing flat LED lights two months ago and a focus on pricemarking to make the shopping experience easier. 

“We make sure all the spaces in the store are filled with goods. This means the shop is cramped sometimes, especially during peak hours. Having LED bulbs clears space and brightens our shelves. We have sliding fridge doors so the aisles don’t get blocked.”

“Pricemarked products such as two bags of Happy Shopper sweets for £1, or three packs of meat for £5 means a customer doesn’t have to spend ages searching for what they want,” she says. “I just want to provide a more relaxing environment.” 

This understanding of how her shop could better meet the needs of her customers, puts her at the forefront of a trend for experiential retail that multiple retailers are spending millions on trying to perfect. For her it’s simply instinctive.

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