The village of Kirton, Lincolnshire, is the third community to benefit from Costcutter’s Shopper First initiative. Suenita Keshwara tells Helen Lock how it has helped her family’s business better cater to the needs of shoppers.

Nestled away in rural Lincolnshire, the owners of Costcutter in the village of Kirton have always strived for their shop to be a hub for the surrounding community.

Costcutter KirtonSo, for the store’s latest refit, costing £150,000, manager Suenita Keshwara along with her mother Manjula and their team have gone the extra mile to make that aim a reality.

“We’ve made it a place where people can come and get everything they need,” says Suenita. “We’re the whole package now: we’re a post office, we’ve got fresh groceries, we’ve got meat from the local butchers, you can do banking at the post office and pick up some hot food and a coffee as well.”

We’ve made it a place where people can come and get everything they need

Suenita’s parents bought the 1,800sq ft store in 1986 and added the post office in 2004. Their latest refit launched on 18 March so they have only been testing out the response for a few weeks.

Their food-to-go additions include a bakery, Rollover hot dogs, a coffee machine, a wider range of sandwiches and hot food options from Country Choice.

The family have also added a post office combi-counter, a move Suenita says has helped “spread post office footfall throughout the day”.

“It’s going well so far. Some of the new food to go is a bit hit and miss but not everyone knows we’ve got it yet so it’s early days. I’ve been surprised, the hot dogs are selling well and we’ve had people pop in before work to get coffee.”

The family’s plans for the change, first discussed in September 2015, became fully crystallised when their symbol group Costcutter launched its own initiative – Shopper First – which focuses on the needs of local customers and has more food to go.

Suenita’s is the third Costcutter to trial the concept, developing a strategy with group’s head office. “It’s not just been about making the shop look pretty, there’s a real science behind it,” Suenita says.

Costcutter Kirton“We’ve been sent personalised analysis with information on customers locally called a ‘store dashboard’, which splits them into groups like busy impulse buyers, striving shoppers, or habitual browsers.

They found 32% of people near us are ‘striving shoppers’ which means they do regular top-up shopping, spend around £30 per week and want extra services like a PayPoint and healthy options.”

Staff then combined this market insight with what they already knew. In 2016, for example, a fire meant the only butcher’s in the village had to move out, so the team increased their range of meats in the refit, from local suppliers M&H butchers and H Dawson and Sons. “That’s what people have missed,” Suenita says.

A range review helped them phase out slow-selling items, creating room for new lines after they found they were replacing tinned food with more fresh produce. “We’ve started using a new supplier, Petty Woods, who do specialist lines.

Through them we’ve got more gluten-free, which customers said they wanted, as well as a Weight Watchers stand. Root beer has done well and chocolate-covered rice cakes. It’s just something a bit different.”

The layout was also carefully considered in the redesign. Suenita says they went back with their plans nine or 10 times, tweaking them. “Now we’ve got the fresh produce near the door which looks attractive as you walk in and the bakery close to the front means you can smell fresh bread as you walk in.”

Although still in the trial and error phase of trying new lines, overall the refit has already provided a successful turnover boost. The family made £5,000 extra in sales in the first week and are seeing more basket shops.

Best of all, they are living up to their ambition of being a centre for their community. They are even thinking of putting chairs outside in the summer so people can eat their food and chat.

“Regulars have told this is exactly what the village needed. You know your customers when you live in a small village, so it’s been really nice to celebrate it with them.”

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