Ten years ago, Welsh retailer Elfed Roberts turned his back on a successful career in the pub trade to try his hand at retailing. Now, with a pharmacy and a second c-store under his belt, it appears there’s no stopping him. Andrew Lowry reports

Elfed Roberts holds the unusual distinction of having achieved great success in not one but two industries.

Until 2004, he worked as a publican, until finding that the demands were too onerous.

“We did really well – almost too well,” he says. “I eventually moved on as it was too challenging. The writing was on the wall – it was taking over my life, so I got out at the top.”

 <figcaption>Make sure you have the correct titles on your newsstand to suit your customers</figcaption>” width=”173″ height=”300″> Make sure you have the correct titles on your newsstand to suit your customers</figure><p>Having worked in a shop as a young man, Elfed came full-circle back to retail, opening a Spar in Nefyn, and now owns two stores with an awe-inspiring combined turnover of more than £5m.</p><p>“I’m a bit of an entrepreneur,” he says. “It’s about getting the basics right. We concentrate on fresh produce, good fruit and veg, and we have a full-time in-store butcher.”</p><p>This commitment to freshness and quality can take Elfed to some interesting places.</p><p>“I once tried rearing our own pigs. It was the first time I did it, and also the last. They were a bit of a handful, but the end products were delicious. It was a bit too much of a commitment for me.”</p><p>Having already opened a pharmacy, last year saw Elfed make his boldest move yet – opening a whole new store in affluent Abersoch.</p><p>“It’s in a bit more of an old money area – a place with a  population of 1,000 that swells to 25,000 in the summer,” he says.</p><p>“There’s a lot of multi-millionaires there. Put it like this, we see a lot of Rolls Royces and Porsches. There are five helipads. This seemed like a market that would be wise to get into.</p><p>“There’s obviously a lot of money, but we didn’t want to rip these people off. They weren’t being looked after properly, so we started offering high-end products like Cristal champagne.”</p><p>Adjusting to serving two very different markets had its own interest for Elfed.</p><p class=I once tried rearing our own pigs. It was the first time I did it, and also the last. They were a bit of a handful, but the end products were delicious 

Notwithstanding his continuing focus on delivering freshness, quality and value, the two stores can offer a panoramic view of British society. “It’s interesting,” he says. “Our best-selling paper in Nefyn is The Times, and in Abersoch it’s The Sun. In terms of tobacco, in one, it’s Marlboro Gold, in the other it’s Lambert & Butler.

“Serving two different markets can be interesting, you see a real range of people every day. It can be fascinating.”

Elfed’s concern for those around him is further attested to by his investment in his staff, and his active participation in his local community.

His more than 50 employees are regularly sent on courses on delivering sparkling service or gauging whether or not to sell tobacco and alcohol products, and this long-term view on his staff pays off.

“I’m in the process of selecting a manager, and it’s very encouraging seeing how far people have developed,” he says happily.

This concern for those around him goes further into the local community.

“I’m chairman of the local council and a governor on the school, and I try and use what power I have to make this a nicer place to live.

“We just got some new playing fields for local kids. I pay for the local flower arrangements as well, lots of things like that.

“It’s a virtuous circle – people respond when you act positively, and they’re more likely to engage and come into the stores. I like my shops being at the centre of local people’s lives.”

Having made the move from publican to enormously successful retailer, Elfed has shown that meeting the demands of different markets can pay off handsomely.

Not one to make a fuss, Elfed’s tenth anniversary as a retailer is being marked by the installation of a Costa coffee machine in his Nefyn store – although one look at his stores and its clear that energy is one thing he’s not short of.


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