Retailers have witnessed huge changes in shopper habits in recent years, as more customers drop the ‘big shop’ in favour of top-up shopping. Julian and Jackie Taylor-Green tell Steven Lambert about changes they’ve made to secure their future

Despite having built up a successful, award-winning convenience store in Lindford, Hampshire, Julian and Jackie Taylor-Green realised they needed to make big changes to ensure the long-term future of their convenience store.

Facing growing competition from two One Stops, a Tesco, a Co-op and other convenience retailers and seeing a shift in customer shopping habits, the husband and wife team, who have been retailing together for more than 12 years, decided to form a strategy that would ensure customers remained loyal to their business for years to come.

sjp_afbspartaylorgreenlindfordlaunch281114_180Julian says: “We could see the way the market was changing, with more people looking to shop little and often and buying more fresh and chilled produce.

“At the same, we wanted to keep offering shoppers good promotions, but we also needed to protect our margins better.”

The first major step was a change in symbol group, which led to them joining AF Blakemore under the Spar fascia. Julian says the group ticked all the boxes when it came to fitting in with their vision for the store.

“One thing we wanted was more consistent promotions on best-selling lines. With Blakemore, we still have monthly offers but we can also give our shoppers deals such as Blossom Hill wine at £5.50, which will be on all year round and gives us a competitive price against the supermarkets.”

Julian says Blakemore’s planning team has also been instrumental in helping them undergo a major “top to bottom” shop refit. The move led to the couple knocking down a wall and expanding into the unit next door, growing floor space from 1,350sq ft to 2,000sq ft.

The work took six months to complete at an estimated cost of around £160,000, with the shop being officially reopened in November.

“The business is now split into two main areas,” says Julian. “We used to have a Post Office fortress but we’ve become a Post Office Local, and we’ve installed this where the old business unit was and added a food to go section alongside it.

“In the main shop, we’ve been able to bring in more products and increase space for customers to walk around more freely when they shop, which has gone down well.”

With the extra room, Julian and Jackie have gone to town on growing their chilled food and drink range, more than doubling their fridge space to 20 metres.

“We’ve slightly decreased our ambient fruit and veg and increased space on chilled produce, and we also now have just over six metres dedicated to butters, fats, cooked meats and ready meals,” says Julian.

“We’re also now get fresh deliveries six days a week and Blakemore offers to deliver to us within 24 hours of ordering.”

Investing in closed-door chillers, reducing the number of compressors used to run them from two to one and adding LED lighting has also enabled Julian and Jackie to save a third on their energy costs.

We could see the way the market was changing, with more people looking to shop little and often and buying more fresh and chilled produce

With a wealth of big changes, Julian says it has also been vitally important to keep customers in the loop about the revamp.

“We have been using social media and explaining to customers directly in the shop about how we are improving the business for them.

“We’ve also been talking with Blakemore about how we can improve things such as our loyalty card scheme to encourage more footfall.”

And while sales at Spar Lindford were steady rather than spectacular over Christmas, Julian says there is still plenty of work left to finish and believes he and Jackie have made the right decision at the right time.

“Shopping habits have completely changed and you’ve got to keep up with them. With what we’ve done here, I would say we have ensured the future of the business for another five years.

“If you can get the backing of a good symbol group and aren’t afraid to invest, you can remain competitive.”

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