Julie Meads thought her days of running a convenience store were in the past.
But when the opportunity to take on the same store she’d run more than 15 years ago arose, she jumped at the chance – this time with her daughter Kerri by her side.
“The shop was a lot bigger, but it wasn’t what we wanted because it could only open 10am-4pm on Sundays, which in a village is crazy,” says Kerri. “Customers now know they can do a full shop and don’t need to go anywhere else.”
The pair took over Premier Highfield Stores in May 2014, and they immediately reduced the size of the store to increase opening hours and set to work making the shop more appealing, replacing lighting, improving refrigeration and switching the post office to a ‘local’ counter so it’s open full shop hours.
The pair are in the enviable position of having no nearby competition, but Julie says they still work hard to keep shoppers engaged with the store rather than driving to nearby Honiton. “To keep people coming back you have to do everything you can for them,” she says.
A big draw for the locals, many of whom are retired, is the home delivery service they offer, whether it’s a pint of milk or a full shop. Julie says they constantly advertise the service to the local area.
Julie is the “numbers” half of the team, looking after the finances and ordering, while Kerri’s decade spent working for the Co-Op before she was made redundant means she’s well placed to manage the merchandising of the shop.
“I couldn’t imagine doing this if I didn’t have the merchandising background from the Co-Op,” Kerri says.
Kerri also understands the importance of social media. She manages the store’s Facebook page, highlighting promotions, running giveaways and posting teasers to get people in store.
“I compare our prices when I walk around supermarkets and flag up how much cheaper we are – people love it,” she says. “And when we were redoing bits of the store I mentioned it on Facebook. It made people nosey and they came into the shop to have a look.”
She also taps into shoppers’ need for value. “I put a recipe on Facebook for a dessert completely out of Euroshopper products that only cost £4.50,” she says. “I also put meal deals on there to show it’s not just supermarkets that can give you a meal for £5.”
It’s a very different store to the one Julie ran when Kerri was a child, and their hard work and fine-tuning has resulted in a constant flow of customers. “From 7pm, we can’t fill up alcohol quick enough to meet demand, and on a Saturday night we can’t sell frozen pizza, big bags of crisps and dips quick enough,” Kerri says.
Their next step is to install automatic doors to make the store more accessible for disabled customers, before launching a loyalty card and capitalising on 50 luxury holiday lodges being built nearby.
“We want to make an even better name for ourselves, keep improving the shop and cater for everybody,” says Julie.