Since becoming the first Bargain Booze retailer in South Wales in 2001, Steve Evans has grown his business with an additional five stores and major shop renovations.
Describing his introduction to convenience retailing, he says: “I was a steel worker when a friend of mine told me about a shop that was for sale. I bought it and at first I traded as an independent, but a couple of years later I learnt about Bargain Booze and made the switch.”
Steve says the brand resonated with customers and enabled him to expand his business. But with expansion came challenges.
“One of the hardest things about opening additional stores is the more shops you have, the more you lose that time behind the counter where you get to know your customers and your customers get to know you,” he says.
Getting the right staff was crucial to address this challenge. He says: “We hire local and promote internally so we can stay rooted in the local area.”
The tourist trade over summer from a local holiday park is key to the store’s success. Despite a ban on businesses advertising within the park, Steve’s store works hard to keep footfall high.
“It’s a really important time for us and we make use of large outdoor signs to increase the visibility of the store to passing park traffic,” he says.
Strong summer and Christmas months help to balance out quiet periods in the rest of the year, but luckily what was once thought of as a Christmas trend is now bolstering the store’s performance in the off-season.
“Premium is no longer just for Christmas. We are seeing customers trading up all year, especially in spirits and beers. We’ve responded by extending our range of gins and world beers,” he explains.
Higher disposable income has created another major opportunity which Steve says should be a core practice in every shop.
“Upselling should be engrained in the shop culture. I train staff with information from Conviviality to make sure they can recommend a bottle of wine or add a sale at the till,” he says.
After opening his latest store last November, Steve says his focus this year is to expand his Porthcawl shop.
“We incorporated another unit next door several years ago and it has made the shape a little odd. By opening up the store and making it larger, we can make the customer flow more logical and create the space needed to introduce a good food-to-go offering.”
Recent legislation changes present a challenge for Steve’s business, but he sees them as an opportunity. “Minimum unit pricing will be a massive change for convenience retailers in Wales when it comes into effect in June, but it’s not something to fear,” he says.
“We don’t sell huge volumes of heavily-affected lines like the supermarkets do. The end of discounted crates of beer sold at supermarkets creates an opportunity for local independents.”