In just over a decade, Phil Dickson has gone from being the owner of a single Bargain Booze store to the head of a convenience store empire. And the empire is set to grow from 12 stores to 20 by the end of this year.
Perhaps Phil’s career history has paved the way for his success in the retail industry. Prior to opening his Lydiate store, Phil was a manager for supermarket chain Aldi. Aldi’s approach to retail, he says, encouraged him to take the step into independent retailing.
“During my time with Aldi, I discovered the success of their solid approach to retail: that hard work equals returns,” says Phil.
Applying this ethic to his own business proved successful, as Phil’s second store opened its doors just a year after the first.
“I saved for the next two years to obtain a further two sites – and I remained at four sites for six years,” he says. Phil then expanded his business further, bringing him to where he is today.
Bargain Booze Lydiate
- Hours: 6am-11pm Monday-Sunday
- Trading since: September 2005
- Size: 1,000sq ft
- Staff: Nine in the Lydiate store, 75 across the business
- Style: A village retailer in a small parade of shops. The Lydiate store has competition from a newsagent next door.
Having this many notches on his belt can be tricky. According to Phil, the profile of his average customer varies between areas, but the fact they’re looking for value never wavers.
“Every customer needs value, whether they are purchasing a bottle of Champagne or a can of Foster’s,” he explains. “Age is not a factor – whether a customer is 18 or 85, they all expect a clean environment, great service and value for their money.”
His best-selling products depend on the time of year – and, just as vitally, the weather.
“We’re currently seeing in the cider season, and last week the good weather drove sales up,” he says. “Wine sales also fluctuate depending on the season.”
But for Phil, sales figures are not the most important aspect of his business. One of the most important lessons he has learnt during his career is a basic one.
“Without our team, there is no customer service, so they come first every single time,” he says. “If we create the right environment for our team, ultimately, our customers will drive the business forward.”
New hires consequently undergo an extensive training programme, which involves training on licensing, health and safety and customer service. In return, staff are offered a rewards and recognition programme as well as incentives.
“I prioritise my team because without them I can’t serve my customers,” he says. “Although this can be hard work, I keep them engaged so they continue to come back to work and deliver.”
This is also achieved by building a strong relationship with his staff – Phil says he asks staff “blatant questions” about what they want from their roles. Of course, engaging staff isn’t without its challenges. One that Phil is feeling in particular is currently being felt by retailers nationwide – the national living wage.
“It’s a significant challenge to any retailer,” he says. “Every step in improving employees’ pay causes us to reflect on the business – which is getting harder and harder.”
However, it isn’t slowing down expansion. By the end of this year, he wants eight new stores and by 2019, he hopes to have 30 under his umbrella.
“We’ll continue to grow as and when opportunities arise,” he says.