At the beginning of May, Samantha Ackland-Jones celebrated the first anniversary of opening The Village Deli in Storrington, West Sussex. Steve Denham visited the store to find out her three key lessons for her first year in business. 

As a newcomer to Storrington last year, Ackland-Jones says she knew that one of the big challenges she faced was capturing a regular customer base. She has been amazed that she now has a good number who use the shop every day.

“Whether it is for a small purchase or a much larger shop, I'm delighted that people keep coming to my store,” she says. She adds that she's learned many things about running a convenience store in the past 12 months, but there are three key lessons that stand out. 

1. Build a strong relationship with local suppliers. "Only selling products from local independent suppliers and spending time understanding their products has enabled me and my team to talk confidently with our customers about the products we sell. It has also led to having suppliers coming to the store to undertake tasting events," she says.

Kieran Balmer, who runs the Sedlescombe Vineyard with his wife, undertook a tasting of the wines from their East Sussex organic vineyard to celebrate the store's first anniversary

2. Build a strong local connection. "Being a newcomer in a village has meant that I have had to reach out to the community for residents to become aware of my business," Ackland-Jones explains. "For the first six months I had a stall at the weekly community market, which is held in the village hall. I have visited the local managed retirement housing scheme to talk about my business and now have a number of the residents placing orders regularly. Added to this, a nearby hairdresser has our lunch menu on display for its clients and we deliver orders to the salon. The store also took part in the village Christmas shopping evening and it was a great success."

3. Build a strong brand. "From its first day, the Village Deli has had a brand of its own. As the year has progressed, our logo has become more prominent across the store, on marketing material and online with Facebook and the store website," says Ackland-Jones.