Stacey Brookes has overseen the transformation of The Dales Market Corner into a modern forecourt and convenience store since she joined six years ago. She tells Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski why the changes have worked 

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If you happen to be cycling through the heart of North Yorkshire, enjoying the stunning countryside, but conscious that you want to maintain your body-beautiful diet, then don’t worry: manager Stacey Brookes and her team have it covered.

“Protein is massive here and has grown over the past two years – we’ve got cycle routes that go past the store and the cyclists love it,” she says. “We’ve got gluten-free products, too – I didn’t believe it would work to begin with, but it really has.” 

The success of these once niche products is one of the more recent steps in a dramatic journey for The Dales Market Corner convenience store and forecourt in Pateley Bridge, Harrogate. When Stacey joined the independently owned business six years ago, she says it was “quaint and small”, operating from 8am to 6pm daily, stocking just core confectionery and grocery products for those buying petrol to pick up.

The time she has worked at the business has seen a huge amount of change, however: an extension, the arrival of a post office, the development of the store in partnership with Nisa. 

“We arranged the extension work so that we never had to shut, closing one section of the business and still being open in the other,” she says. 

Now the forecourt and full convenience offer strives to meet the needs of those driving past, the huge seasonal tourist trade, many locals from the village plus a loyal farming community from the area surrounding the store. 

A big reason why the store’s now able to cater to the needs of so many customers is the advice and support that working with a symbol group has provided. 

“We get six chilled deliveries a week and three ambient. We’re an independent business but we’re 97% compliant with Nisa deals. We send out their promotional leaflets and customers will come in with products circled that they want,” she says.

Along with satisfied millennial cyclists happily munching on snack bars, another sign this shift in the business has worked came this summer when the heatwave struck and thousands of tourists descended on the area, with many arriving at the store looking for barbecue items including fresh meat, salads and alcohol. “This year’s been a real boom,” Stacey says. 

And as many retailers know, serving an expanding customer base in 2018 means one thing: increasing your chilled offer. 

“Two weeks ago we had a mini-refit and I moved our soft drinks chiller to find space for two more bays of chilled,” Stacey says. 

We’re an independent business but we’re 97% compliant with Nisa deals

The demand for space has also been driven from the arrival of Co-op products into the Nisa range and the opportunity for the team to include ready meals. 

“It’s a challenge because we don’t want to have six versions of the same product,” she says. 

She’s tried hot food to go – a no-brainer for most forecourts – before and finding sales were going to a nearby bakery. “We tried it for year, but it wasn’t viable.” 

In almost every other sense, Stacey admits she’s in a lucky area – 10 miles from the nearest supermarket and with only one smaller Spar store in the vicinity. 

Still, as her adherence to Nisa deals highlights, this doesn’t mean that she premium prices her store. “You want repeat customers. If customers know you’re taking advantage, they get put off,” she says. 

It goes to show how committed the business is to the basics of convenience retail: maintaining a loyal base of customers and pouncing on any other opportunities which might become available. And as the protein and gluten-free ranges show, even in the most remote areas, this can mean stocking the latest trends.

“It takes us a little time to catch up with what’s happening in London, but we get there soon enough,” she says. 

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