You are a retailer, you’ve just purchased your first shop, and you are keen to get the punters in as soon as possible. You are next to a bus route, which services a large council estate with many families and pensioners, so looking after the interests of regular shoppers is a top priority. But, at the proprietor of a 500sq ft store, how do you pry their attention away from the larger multiples in the nearby town?
This was the big question Lorna Davis was asking herself when taking over Aubrey Road General Stores in Penygraig, Mid Glamorgan, back in 2010. But, rather than perceiving her lack of floor space as a limitation, Lorna believed it would be an opportunity to promote herself to the neighbourhood.
She says: “I think we have advantage as a smaller store. Most people, particularly the elderly, don’t want to walk around a big supermarket for an hour lugging a trolley around. They can come to us to find all that they need and have a friendly chat as well.”
Lorna says a whopping 99% of trade comes from local people, while the remainder is made up of the odd builder working nearby. Therefore, new additions to the business have been centred on appealing to repeat visitors. One example has been the adoption of the Healthy Start programme, a government scheme that provides free vouchers to families on certain benefits. These can then be used to claim milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk which, Lorna says, has gone down well with customers in the surrounding area.
Another way of drawing people to the shop has been through Booker’s Shop Locally campaign, which has enabled Lorna to do leaflet drops to highlight upcoming store promotions. “We have over 500 houses nearby and I will drive around posting the leaflets door to door”, she says. The result of this has been an increase in trade and turnover, as well as allowing Lorna and her staff to get to know their customers better over the first few months of trading.
Store presentation and tidiness is another area that is a priority for Lorna, a habit picked up from her work at big retail outlets such as Woolworths and Sainsbury’s. The shop is regularly restocked and faced up after the morning school run and at every other opportunity throughout the day.
A recent refit has also helped with store presentation and has allowed Lorna to insert new fridges to help with previous spacing issues. She says: “The owner before us had two old Ribena fridges filled with food, and Coca-Cola and Lucozade fridges for soft drinks. I also want to change the jumbo freezer we have at the moment, because I hate it.”
With many large families in the area who prefer to cook at home rather than eat out, Lorna has introduced some new lines. Frozen vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and other Sunday roast essentials are now staples in the store’s fridge, and she has sourced fresh vacuum-packed meats from Batleys, including gammon steaks, chicken and ham.
On top of this, Lorna has also hit upon the idea of introducing a small arts and crafts section for children near the back of the store. “If it’s a rainy day and the kids have nothing to do, but mum or dad doesn’t want to venture into town, they can pick up some colouring pens or stamps here to keep them occupied.”
The next step in the shop’s development is to gain the support of a symbol group. “We have been speaking with the Booker retail development manager about becoming a Premier Express store. It’s looking like the way we are going to go.” And, along with the strong start by the store’s new owner half a year in, this can only mean good things for the people of Penygraig.