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Mo Lowrey only took over her Barnstaple store in 2015, but several years of managing shops under previous owners meant she knew exactly what – and what not – to do.
“The previous owners were not good. They didn’t put any stock in, but expected me to run it,” she says.
When the shop closed, Mo and her husband Matt took over and turned it around.
They immediately joined Premier and introduced a raft of services that weren’t there before, including an ATM, coffee machine and Lotto. They also had to re-build relationships. “Because the previous owners were so bad with credit, PayPoint wouldn’t touch the shop,” says Matt. “We’ve worked on the relationship and have a terminal now.”
Premier Bear Street Convenience Store, Barnstaple, Devon
Hours: 6am – 10pm Sun-Wed, 7am-11pm Thurs – Sat
Trading since: February 2015
Size: 990sq ft
Staff: Six part-time
Style: A convenience store near a high street. The majority of custom comes from local residents and competition comes from discounters.
Mo has also used her experience of convenience retail in Japan to introduce hot food to the store. “Convenience stores in Japan are totally different to here. It’s 24 hours a day and very focused on hot food,” she says. “What they do with hot food there is amazing and something the UK can learn from.”
Because of the stock issues she’s faced in the past, Mo always makes sure the shop has great availability. “It was horrible working in a shop with empty shelves,” says Mo.
“Availability is crucial for me. If you don’t have certain lines, people will go to other shops and I don’t want to lose that custom. I hate gaps – because I used to have a lot of them!”
Value also plays a massive role in the shop. “In the last couple of years our competition has really increased as we have a lot of discounters nearby,” says Mo.“We can’t compete with them, but everything I can get that’s price-marked, I get. I love price-marks and I know our customers do too.”
The Lowreys are a big part of the community, so their customers are loyal. “Eighty per cent of our trade is from locals,” adds Mo. “I’ve been serving our customers for a long time and we know each other well.”
To offer something different and stand out from the competition, they stock locally-sourced products, with one brand going downparticularly well with customers. “Lindsey’s Cheesecakes are handmade locally. I approached them about stocking some of their catering products,” says Matt. “We sell loads of them. The shop is just over the road, but you can’t buy the small cheesecakes there. They’ve got a different range that they don’t sell in there.”
Their involvement in the local community also stretches to raising funds for a search and rescue hovercraft that Matt is organising with his friend for the area. “It’s to help out when there’s flooding and you can’t get a boat to people,” explains Matt. “We’re also recruiting for volunteers for it – we’ve got 10 people signed up so far”
They also participate in a Government scheme where people who have been on benefits for a long time complete a work experience trial at the store.
Mo says: “If I’m happy with their work, I take them on as permanent staff. These people need opportunities like this so they have the experience to go for jobs. And it gives them confidence, so we’re happy to help.
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