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We’ve spent the first month of the year focusing on cleaning, re-merchandising and setting new sales targets.  Our Londis in Blean is fairly stable because we’ve been there for two full years now and have found our feet, so our target this year is to grow grocery sales overall and certain individual sections, such as pet food.

We will look at merchandising across the whole shop and assess the profit potential of every category.  We’ve done customer surveys and people have told us that they want more choice on products like coffee, pet food and groceries, rather than snacks, and more branded goods.

With instant coffee, for example, people want stronger brands such as Nespresso and a choice of better quality items at a good price. So we plan to add more teas and coffees.

We’ve pruned slow sellers and added new lines to our pet food range already and can see the results, with weekly sales rising from £150 to £240.  We used Londis planograms at first, then looked at our sales records to see where things weren’t selling.

Doing that has helped us get rid of a few things and make space for double facings of others.  We’re doing the same at Budgens. It’s completely different at this shop and with popular sections like food to go, fresh food and flowers I’m still finding my feet.

In this store we need to do more to highlight the value we offer our customers.  We have lots of £1 offers on key brands, for example, so we are looking into how we can emphasise these more effectively.  These sorts of offers might erode our margins but the perception of value they create is important.  We’ve been developing other kinds of deals too, focusing on linked offers in particular.  This works well in Budgens, where people will come in to buy bacon, for example, but will see a display of bread or sauces that we’ve placed next to it and pick up a couple of extra items.

We also know we are cheaper than Tesco on many products.  Budgens is really good at doing price comparison point-of-sale material so we have that all over the shop, but one new thing we have done is to fill a basket with products that we sell cheaper on, with a list comparing our prices with Tesco’s.  We’ve put this near the front of the shop and on our Facebook page to show people what we’re doing. This is something we’d like to try in Londis too.

People are more concerned about health issues at this time of year so last week we invited a lady from Weight Watchers to talk to people in-store about which healthy products to buy and how they can balance these with treats.  This shows why it’s important for us to get to know our shoppers. The idea came out of a conversation I had with her and it’s great because things like that are of mutual benefit to us and our customers.

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