Having returned to the convenience sector, Dalston retailer Nicholson Boyd decided to try different ideas to make his new store stand out in such a trendy area. From fresh and authentic Italian pizza to evening samplings of craft beer, his store is already growing in popularity. Steven Lambert reports

Located in the bustling heart of trendy Dalston, Pickles of London is a new convenience concept store aiming to offer something a little bit different to shoppers.

From authentic stone-baked pizzas to barista-quality coffee, store owner Nicholson Boyd has developed his business to appeal to customers looking to pick up high quality, affordable food and drink alongside their regular groceries.

“I decided to come back to retailing because I found it more interesting.”

“I moved to London six years ago and worked as a property surveyor,” says Nicholson. “But I’m also a third generation retailer – my family runs the Creightons business, operating a number of convenience stores and petrol stations in Northern Ireland.

Living in nearby Haggerston, Nicholson came across a derelict pound shop during a trip to Dalston’s Kingsland high street two years ago – a site he felt would be perfect to start a convenience business of his own.

The store reopened last month as a 2,700sq ft site split into two parts, with the front focused on foodservice and lunchtime trade and the back dedicated to more traditional convenience shoppers.

At the same time, a 1,500sq ft area below the store provides seating for shoppers looking for a drink and bite to eat while taking advantage of the business’s free wi-fi.

Nicholson says the biggest point of difference he offers compared to his supermarket competitors is his pizza business.

Customers can choose from a menu of eight pizzas made using high quality ingredients, including freshly-made dough, fior di latte mozzarella and Italian meats, all cooked in an authentic stone pizza oven.

“I didn’t want to do this half-heartedly,” he says. “So I spent a week in Italy working with a pizza expert to learn how they make them there.”

If you were expecting a premium price to go alongside all this effort, think again – a 12-inch margherita will set you back £5.95, while the most expensive pizza on the menu rings up at a highly-respectable £6.95.

“We also offer a lunch time deal where customers can pick up an eight inch pizza and a soft drink for £5.95. We’re working hard to show customers that we’re offering them value for money on high-quality food.”

This message extends to the store’s coffee bar, with shoppers able to pick up filter coffee for £1 per cup alongside more exotic blends from Guatemala, Kenya and Brazil.

Another big seller for the store is craft beer, with Nicholson working with six local brewers including London Fields, 40 FT and Hackney Brewery.

craft beer“Craft beer sales have been crazy,” he says. “We’ve done sampling in the evening and we’ve seen repeat visits as a result.

“I’m now looking to increase craft beer facings and I’m also looking to work with another six suppliers.”

Other unique aspects of the store include a florist service, premium lines such as cheesecakes and steaks from high-end suppliers, and a large selection of American confectionery, which all complement a range of chilled and frozen goods, fresh fruit and veg and general groceries supplied by Spar wholesaler AF Blakemore.

Nicholson says: “I think people assume that we’re expensive when they see the front of the store, so the next step for us is to show we are offering good value for money through leaflet drops, advertising outside the store, and social media. We’re already growing our numbers on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.”

Despite only being open for a month, Nicholson is already looking at further ways to attract trade. He says: “We don’t have a big breakfast and lunchtime offer, so I’ll be focusing on them next. 

“I’m looking to change the store all the time, because shoppers are getting smarter about what they buy and what goes into their food. It’s a lot of work but it’s exciting at the same time.”

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