Justin Fenn has been at the helm of his Kwik Save store for three years, after growing frustrated with the previous owners – his parents – reluctance to invest in it.
Kwik Save, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Hours: 7am-11pm Monday-Sunday
Trading started: June 2013
Size: 1,500sq ft
Staff: Two full-time, seven part-time
Style: Located in a busy seaside town, with competition from nine convenience stores on the same road.
“They wouldn’t spend on it,” he says. “A week after I bought it, I closed the store for 16 days and it underwent a complete refit – since then, the number of shoppers we have has doubled.”
The day before our visit, Justin served 1,000 customers; this is no mean feat with nine competitors on the same street, and an Asda superstore within walking distance.
“A lot of my customers aren’t willing to travel – but they’re also driven by price,” he says.
Justin spent a lot on advertising, but when it failed to bring in enough shoppers, he turned his focus to food to go. “Now we bake fresh bread. We used to sell two or three a day, but now we sell 400 per week,” he says.
“We cook them little and often so they’re always fresh. The supermarkets will bake 1,000 every morning, and by the evening they’re crusty and old.”
Under Justin’s ownership, the store also sells fresh meat, which wasn’t available before he took over. Justin says it took time for local awareness to spread: “You have to absorb waste to build a reputation.”
In addition to building a reputation for a strong fresh offering, Justin has retrained all of the staff to ensure they are providing the best customer service in the vicinity.
“If I get a customer who’s never been in the store before I tend to keep them,” he says. “I emphasise to all of the staff the importance of being courteous and friendly, and of asking the customer what they want – it’s their shop, not mine.”
Justin is still striving to be recognised in the community.
“I just sponsored Local Pride,” he says. “When I order products from Costcutter, they give me incentives to donate to local charities; so if shoppers buy certain products, part of the proceeds will be donated. I make those incentives clear to customers.”
Now we bake fresh bread. We used to sell two or three a day, but now we sell 400 per week
One challenge Justin has faced has been people management – which was perhaps made more difficult by the fact that he worked in the store under his parents’ management.
“I went from worker to boss,” he says. “It’s my job to keep the staff happy, but sometimes I have to make decisions they won’t like. Everyone has their own management style, so the way the store is being managed has changed.”
Justin overcame this by ensuring he was “the boss from day one”, and has since established a strong sense of leadership with his team.
The refit also made the store far more efficient. “The fridges have doors and LED lighting was installed. It’s not just about saving money; everything has been done to make the shopping experience a positive one,” he adds.
Justin explains that this is done using things that shoppers don’t know they notice, such as the temperature of the store, and ensuring that nothing is ever broken.
Justin is now planning to expand his business. “I want to open another shop,” he says. “Ideally it will be in the same area, but not too close. I’m planning that now.
“In the meantime, I’m focusing on this store – there’s no manual, because no two shops can ever be the same. I’m learning as I go.”