AT the heart of a rural village community about 20 minutes from Peterborough, retailer Biz tries to cater for everyone.
That means looking after his elderly customers, the local farmworkers and their landowner bosses, as well as family shoppers and the professionals commuting into London.
There are only about 2,000 homes in the village but Biz turns over a healthy £14,000 each week and what’s more he has the liberty of applying a decent margin because his shop is the only one for four or five miles in any direction.
But although he has the luxury of being able to take 12 per cent margins on categories like tobacco, since teaming up with Premier in May this year he has found that price-marked goods are an invaluable sales tool. His next move will be to try and introduce a 90 per cent PMP rang win his soft drinks section.
He has also started using the £1 price point more, and found that it isn’t just those people with less disposable income who are attracted to it.
“I thought it would be people living on council estates with lower incomes who would be interested in the £1 price, but when you’ve got millionaire farmers coming in and buying things for a pound, you know that everyone is looking to save money where they can.”
One thing he considered was stocking only price-marked cigarettes, but in order to recoup what he would lose in margin he would have to sell three times as many and h decided that was probably too optimistic.
He has made little tweaks to his store on the advice of his Premier area manager, such as making one gondola end into a baby section distinct from the other toiletries and bathroom products. He decided he would give it six months to see how well it went but already in four months sales are up by five to 10 per cent on the lines in the baby section.
The biggest category for Biz next to tobacco is chilled, which accounts for up to a quarter of his sales. Along with ready meals and fresh meat so that people can pick up food to eat in the evening, he has added little touches like a pot of free plastic spoons on the shelf next to the desserts to encourage people to buy mousses and yogurts.
“If someone wants to get a chocolate mousse for their lunch but there’s nothing to eat it with then they won’t buy it,” he says.
But what has really surprised him is the popularity of the products from local butchers Gagen of Gorefield, which offers him a very tidy margin. Among the goods Biz orders in from the butcher as often as twice a day are pies and pastries, along with ham and flavoured sausages.
“We are selling more of their products here than they actually sell in their own shop, so it’s good for them and for us,” he says.
After chilled produce, wine tends to be the biggest seller, with brands like Echo Falls and Stowells among the most popular. Sometimes when they are running low on white wine nearby restaurants and pubs will pop down and buy 10 or more bottles because they know they will be cold and can be served to their diners straight away.
Behind wine, cider is a big seller, with some farmhands popping in as early as 7am to pick up something for later.
The main aim for the future will be to maintain the business and grow profits, but the there is a chance that the post office, which has been in the shop for 12 years, could make way under postal reforms. If this happens Biz will consider expanding the shop up to 1,800sq ft, although there will be an element of risk because it would be an expensive operation.
The shop has always used leaflets to communicate with residents about the deals it has on, although pending a deal with the Royal Mail, Biz may be able to extend the leaflet drops to extend into the surrounding villages and spread the word further.
SHOP AT A GLANCE
- Name: Bisla Premier
- Location: Wisbech St Mary (check), Cambs
- Size: 1,800sq ft
- Staff: 5
- Opening hours: 7am-7.30pm Monday to Friday, 7.30am-7.30pm Saturday, 10am-1pm Sunday
- Date trading started: 1985
BIZ’S TOP TIPS
- The store has got to be clean, tidy and stocked up
- The staff must be polite and well presented
- Make sure you get your range and pricing right