Nigel Hughes is delighted to be one of Budgens’ next generation ‘lab’ stores, and his increased choice of products is attracting a wider variety of customers, writes Steven Lambert

Budgens_Reopening_300dpi-1012With its recent decision to cut store numbers and refocus on the quality of its retail outlets, Musgrave has sent a clear message of intent to the convenience market heading into 2015.

Included in this strategy is the creation of next generation ‘lab’ stores under its Budgens fascia, designed as a test bed to trial new products and accommodate new and future shopper trends.

And one of these stores, located in Broadstone, Dorset, is already seeing positive signs following its relaunch in October, with sales revenue growing 25% in just two months.

It’s also been a big change for Budgens of Broadstone store manager Nigel Hughes, who has been involved in the business since 2009 back when it used to be a Somerfield. He says: “I’ve been in retail for many years and I’ve worked with companies such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

“Musgrave took over the store a few years back now, and I have to say it has been the company that has given me the most support during my career.”

Nigel says he and his team of 37 staff have been working hard to encourage a wider range of shoppers through the door.

“It’s a fairly affluent area with quite an elderly population, who used to make up the majority of customers,” he says. “Now, we’re getting a bigger mix of people who are coming in and shopping with more than one basket.”

Not an easy task considering the amount of competition on the surrounding high street, including a Tesco Express directly next door, two 70,000sq ft Tesco Extras, a Lidl and many more.

With this in mind, Nigel has been working with Budgens on a plan of action – namely, focusing on “shopper missions” and offering various “points of difference” across the entire 6,500sq ft floor space.

This includes expanding the range of loose and pre-packaged fresh fruit and veg, with promotional lines now stocked in large wooden boxes to give the area a more appealing look.

The move has also led to more families and healthy eaters picking up goods from the store, with the knock-on effect being a 60% rise in fruit and veg sales.

This “better for you” message extends to the new chilled promotional bay near the front till stocked with salads, bitesize fruit packs and smoothies aimed at people looking for a healthy lunchtime snack.

The bread section has also been overhauled, with a new wooden display unit promoting everything from artisan lines such as tomato breadsticks to more unusual offerings such as ‘cronuts’.

Shoppers are also encouraged to try samples, which change on a regular basis.

Musgrave took over the store a few years back now, and I have to say it has been the company that has given me the most support over the years

Elsewhere, the business has also widened its selection of premium ready meals to attract commuters on the way home from work. Shoppers can now select from a larger range of high quality brands such as Charlie Bigham and Budgens’ own brand Prepared For You and Discover The Taste lines.

Nigel is also working closely with more than 20 local suppliers, including the likes of Oakley Village Butchers, Dorset Tea and Purbeck Ice Cream, to provide more than 100 specialist products to shoppers.

These are heavily promoted around the store with bespoke wooden units attached to shelves, along with point of sale giving information on how the products are sourced.

While these changes have been met positively by customers – and have led to average basket spend increasing from £7 to £9 – Nigel has been careful not to neglect the basics of good independent retailing.

“Even before the revamp, I told my staff we want to become famous for our customer service. It is something that we continue to focus on today and pride ourselves on. It helps give us an edge against the supermarkets.”

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