Two years ago Annabel du Plessis left her high-flying career as a chartered accountant at a busy firm to take on the family business – a group of three stores including Budgens in Broadstairs, Kent. The store has been in her family for four generations and this particular spot has been running since 1919.

Fast facts
  • Location: Broadstairs, Kent
  • Staff: 40
  • Hours: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Size: 2,300sq ft
  • Style: A forecourt store on a busy traffic intersection. Trades at around £45,000 per week but trade can rise by up to 20% per week in the summer months

“Being self-employed is a better fit for my family life,” she says. But life is far from quiet as a retailer and the pace of life is just as fast, with Annabel still taking care of all the business’ accounts.

The store welcomed a Subway franchise into its midst just one month ago, and it’s already having a huge impact. “It doesn’t just bring in more customers, it’s a different kind of customer,” she explains.

The brand is hugely popular with young people and students, drawing in some of the English students attending the town’s language colleges as well as pupils from the two nearby schools.

Taking on the sandwich chain was a real challenge for Annabel and her staff. With the counter taking up so much space, it was a big commitment. She hired an extra 10 staff and sent her store manager on a two-week training course.

“We’re still moving things around, finding out what works best,” she says. “But we wanted to improve our food-to-go range,” she explains.

With lunchtime customers already checking in before Retail Express arrived at midday, it certainly looks like the move had paid off.

Top Tips
  1. Delegate: You can’t do everything yourself. Trust the people you work with – we have great staff here and that’s what really makes the store so great.
  2. Keep it local: Stocking food from local suppliers are key. More people want to know where there food is from, so a strong range of local products is essential.
  3. Brand it up: Brands like Costa and Subway draw in customers. People stick to the things they know, but you have to offer something new as well.

The food-to-go category has also been given a real boost with the introduction of a Costa Express machine. “We used to have a different machine, which was much cheaper but we only sold 10 around cups a day,” she says. With the new machine, the turnover is more like 50 cups a day, despite the doubling in price per cup.

But the store still relies a lot on more traditional convenience store produce as tobacco and confectionery are two of their best selling ranges. Annabel boosts sales here by highlighting products as people pay. She says, “Impulse items at the till tops do really well, particularly at prices like £1 or 50p”.

The store is heavily involved with the local community and joins in with the town’s biannual food festival. They’re also looking forward to this year’s Halloween Trick or Treat Trail – when children visit a chain of stores in a locally-organised version of the American tradition.

Local suppliers also play an important role. Working with around 10 different food producers, the store stocks local tea, jams, juices, beers, postcards, amongst other items.

One local producer supplies the store with a range of home-cooked frozen ready meals, giving customers a real reason to keep coming back.

“We’re very lucky that there are so many food producers nearby. It makes a real point of difference with competitors.”

She credits her staff as playing an instrumental role in bringing these products in store. “I have fantastic support from my team. It’s really them that keeps the place going,” she says.

With a huge warehouse situated just out the back – where a car showroom once sat back in the store’s original layout – there is still plenty of room for expansion and change. Annabel concludes,

“I’d like to do something with all this space. I’ve got lots and lots of ideas”.