Philip Whitaker was one of hundreds of retailers that were caught up in the shockwave caused by Palmer and Harvey’s (P&H) demise last year. After being with Costcutter for 32 years, he was faced with the possibility of his business collapsing.
“My orders were missing up to 100 lines for some time before P&H closed. It was just before Christmas when they went under and I had no supplier. I thought I’d lose my business,” he says.
Fortunately, Philip had already been speaking to another supplier – Budgens – that was planning its expansion further up the country by moving its range into a Booker Retail Partners depot in South Yorkshire.
Losing his supplier fast-tracked the process and just a week later, Philip was receiving his first order.
“We installed the new fascia in March and have steadily increased our range. Last month, we had our best week in 32 years and overall sales are up by 5%,” he says.
While footfall has stayed the same, shoppers are spending more, their baskets increased by tempting offers and a bigger range of evening meals.
Typical to the Budgens brand, the shop now features an expanded fresh and chilled section and more ready meals, a segment that has trebled in sales.
“A weakness I had was that I had nothing customers could have for tea. Now I don’t have that problem,” he explains.
The store also offers premium local lines alongside Booker’s Farm Fresh and Discover the Choice brands. Philip takes £1,000 a week from pies and cut meats from a local butcher, who delivers every day.
He also uses the Euro Shopper and Happy Shopper brands in price-sensitive categories, such as biscuits, to offer value. “We’ve introduced a frozen meal deal, which we never had before, and it’s performing really well.”
This focus on premium and value products allows Philip to appeal to shoppers from the range of demographics in his area.
“The most frequent comment I get is customers liking that we have a value offering. We can still offer a good price, while remaining true to what Budgens is,” he explains.
The most striking change in Philip’s store is the increase in range. “We’ve always carried a bigger range than we should have because I believe choice is so important,” he explains.
This is particularly true in areas like packaged hot drinks, which has expanded to take in as many on-trend green and herbal tea flavours as possible.
“Customers like seeing a display. I won’t sell loads of cases of speciality lines every week, but customers will be drawn by the range even if they still pick their preferred brand,” he says.
Philip is now looking at his range and making more tailored tweaks, as well as investigating the possibility of bringing in more chillers to further capitalise on his shoppers’ new-found hunger for fresh lines.
“No one had heard of Budgens before we got here, now they certainly have,” he says.