OPINION: Focus on customers and you’ll be successful

Unlock the secrets of your success was the theme of this year’s Independent Achievers Academy (IAA) launch event and Warner’s Budgens in Moreton-in-Marsh was an inspired venue for this.

Part of a five-strong chain of independent stores owned by Guy Warner (soon to be six), the flagship Moreton store is 6,000sq ft and has a Waitrose feel with wide aisles and premium products.

However, as manager Jerry Tweney guided 25 retailers around a tour of the store, it became clear that he is managing the same market pressures as other independents.

Despite local competition from Tesco and a Co-op in the 3,500 population town, Warner’s Budgens is the anchor store for villages in a hinterland stretching eight miles.

“We focus on customer experience,” Tweney told the IAA party. “We want customers to have a positive experience. And we want them to see something different, to give them a reason to want to come in and do a shop here.”

Tweney and his team manage 65 local suppliers to amplify and build on the 6,000 lines provided by Budgens.

His four assistant managers and his supervisors all have parts of the store to manage and they are rewarded for getting things right.

Every two years, Tweney surveys his customers and their needs. Their average age is 57, he says, and they like traditional Budgens’ strengths such as the deli counter. But the store has had to change dramatically in the nine years since it was acquired. At the start it was flooded and this required a huge investment in building a store to satisfy the big fortnightly food shop.

However, since 2012 shopping habits have changed and the store has had to adapt to the daily food shopper, looking to buy a meal for tonight and premium wines. Cook, the upmarket frozen range, was introduced last year and has been a massive success. The space for 14 freezers put a lot of pressure on the grocery and non-food ranges.

The team is just ending a bay-by-bay review of its grocery products, working out what the assortment should be. Local products help it to stand out, providing something different, and premium lines are woven into the core grocery range.

In non-food Tweney is working with new suppliers to get his price proposition right. He has opened a new coffee shop with a local brand and ever since 2012 there has been a constant pressure to introduce new things to delight his customers.

After the tour, retailers were given copies of the latest Retail Profit Guide for this year’s IAA programme. It is filled with practical things to do and essential disciplines that independent retailers can use to build their sales and profits. Tweney had walked around his store demonstrating that these ideas work.

If you visit his shop, you will see independent retailing at its best. He admits that he and his team visit their competitors, like Little Waitrose, and mercilessly seize upon their best ideas. “We’ve not invented anything,” he says.

Learn from his story. Obstacles to your success are everywhere. You need to have good processes and a good team. But with lots of optimism and a total focus on your customers you will be successful.


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