LocationAxbridge, Somerset

Hours: 6.30am-9pm Mon-Fri, 7.30am-9pm Sat-Sun

Staff: 12

Size1,000sq ft

Trading sinceMay 2013 as a Simply Fresh

Knowing your shoppers is an essential part of being a great independent retailer, but when you have to cater for anyone that travels up or down one of the longest A-roads in England, you have to stay on top of your game.

Sited on the side of the A38 in Somerset, Simon Lunn’s Simply Fresh forecourt brings in holidaymakers, locals and commuters.

“The demographic is very strange. You can’t pin it down to anything,” he says. “We have farmers that come in and the next person could be an MD on their way to work.”

The shop was built by Simon’s father in the 1950s and, after finishing university, Simon joined the business. The old site was partnered with BP, but after looking at several different ways to take the business to the next level, Simon knew what he needed to do.

“I met an Esso dealer who drove a Ferrari and had a massive shop,” he says. “That was my lightbulb moment – the shop has to work. I didn’t want to go with Esso and I didn’t really want a Ferrari, but I knew I had to get the shop working.”

His response was to double the size of the store, open the first Simply Fresh forecourt in the country and offset the £45,000 tied up in fuel with a range of premium, local products to tempt in holidaymakers looking to take a piece of Somerset back home with them.

“We deal with a local butcher and don’t stock anyone else’s sausages apart from theirs. We take £350 a week on their meats alone,” says Simon.

The store has two local cheese suppliers, stocks Rose Farm jams and has ales from Glastonbury and Cheddar. “I discovered three of our local brands from trying food at farmers’ markets,” he adds.

Each local item is promoted with a cue card. The shop also has cards that encourage shoppers to grab local vegetables for their Sunday roast or urge them to “get your winter warmers” next to soups and chutneys.

Gluten-free food is becoming more important to the shop and Simon highlights them with a green card on the shelf.

As well as championing local suppliers, Simon is a big supporter of local initiatives. “We raise money for our local church with the 5p bag scheme,” he says. “We don’t have to charge, but we’ve sold more than 8,500 bags since it was introduced, which led to a donation of £437.”

Simon might have doubled the size of his shop, but he found he didn’t need to double the size of his workforce. “We increased the number of staff, but not significantly. Half of our staff are health and hygiene trained. It doesn’t need to be everyone,” he says.

The shop still has space to double in size again if Simon chooses, but right now it’s time to recoup the rewards from the previous investment. The past three years required compromise and learning from both retailer and symbol group, but it is in a strong position for the future.

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