Tracey and her husband Dave both grew up nearby Selborne, and their local knowledge is paying dividends.
The biggest selling lines are staples like bread and milk, but their speciality, and the part of the business with the highest margins, is the produce that is made on their doorstep in Hampshire.
Sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know, and this is the case with their best-selling jams (priced at £2.65), which are made by the lady living next door to Tracey’s mum, Angela.
“We pride ourselves on our local produce – we have all sorts of things and they all come from different suppliers,” says Tracey.
“When people come in to visit the post office or buy some milk, we hope they will also buy something they can’t get in the supermarket.”
Their other popular locally sourced produce includes chutney, honey, ice cream, fresh meat, pies, ready meals and fudge – some of which they found through the Hampshire Fare website. This is a not-for-profit organisation that champions sustainable food produced within the county and puts suppliers in touch with people who want to buy their produce.
But as well as these products, Tracey does a roaring trade in goods from the chiller, which is positioned at the front of the shop. They are frequently in Kerry Foods’ top 10 retailers for the district, regularly posting the fewest returns and the highest sales. These products are popular with what Tracey calls the ‘quick shopper’, who wants to grab their lunch and go.
Those shoppers with a little more time on their hands can order a freshly made sandwich at the deli counter. In the winter months Tracey or Angela will use the fresh vegetables that are getting short on date to make soups they can serve to cold and hungry shoppers looking for a warming meal.
“Normally my mum does the soups because she’s better at them than me, but what it does is saves on wastage of our fresh food,” she says.
Knowing the area and the people who live there has also helped make the shop a part of people’s lives. Her children and husband were in the village pantomime this year and Dave has so far raised £5,000 in the village for a school project in Ghana.
They also support the Mouth and Foot artists at the Selborne Gallery, and Tracey also asks that people make a donation to their chosen charity the Air Ambulance service in exchange for putting notices on the shop’s community board.
Their customers are quite a mix of young families, working people and elderly shoppers, as well as tourists who come to visit Gilbert White’s Natural History Museum in the village, (and who are often partial to a prettily packaged local jam or chutney).
The shop, which is bright, simple and attractive, is a working example of why it pays to invest in your business. At the very start of their venture they won a grant of £20,000 which they used to refit the shop, introducing the deli and sandwich bar, and painting the shop a nice, clean white. The previous owners had the shop for 24 years and it had become dilapidated, but since the refurb, many customers have started coming back. It is also attracting new customers who have been passing the shop for years but only just noticed it.
“Location is really important and this is quite a good road,” says Tracey.
“We’ve got some guys who drive this way to Portsmouth and back, and they pop in almost every day on their way home.”
Her golden rule is to be nice to the customers and provide what they want. Knowing the area and the people who live there is a surefire way of doing just that – it has helped her tailor their offering in a way that a supermarket never could.