This store in Weymouth opened nine years ago and has already picked up numerous awards for different areas of retailing. The unit wasn’t a convenience store when the team took it on, so it needed a complete refit. They have also invested substantially in the store over the years. Sonya Hook speaks to Dave Hiscott:
What competition does the store have?
It’s in the town centre and we have a Wilkinson very nearby, and an M&S store is close. A Tesco is about five or 10 minutes’ walk and there is another independent retailer close by too.
So we have a lot of competition but they were all there before we came on board and we did our research and knew there was a market for what we wanted to offer.
Because it is in the town centre we have a broad demographic who come from all areas of the town, so we have to cater for people from both less affluent and very affluent areas. Our range goes from Euroshopper products to the high- end frozen Cook meals, and both ends of the range sell well.
We also attract a lot of tourists and seasonal variation is incredible. Out of season we take £45,000 a week but in high season this would probably go up to £70,000. We employ university students throughout the summer to help with this.
How has the BWS section changed over the years?
When we set up the store we went in with a basic Londis planogram and within the first three months we delisted all of our high-strength lagers and ciders.
We were attracting the wrong people and because we were in the town centre we found a lot of street drinkers were coming in for those products, and there was also quite a lot of theft. Once we delisted those it all levelled out. At the same time we launched a craft beer section, and really we were quite ahead of the times. We didn’t call it craft beer then but basically we were looking for beers you couldn’t find in supermarkets. We had some nice regional things and we stocked Brewdog early on.
When the craft beer scene did emerge we were in a good position to add more products. More recently we have reconfigured the range again and we have concentrated it down a bit. We now have a section for three-for-£5 ales, regional, local and dedicated craft brewers but it is a smaller section than it was.
I follow three or four craft beer forums on Facebook so I know what is trending. I also source beers from Beer Paradise and it lets me single- pick beers so I can get a nice range.
What are sales like for other BWS categories?
We struggle with sales of spirits so we have plans to reconfigure what we are doing behind the counter in order to address this.
I know of stores that have panels behind spirits to help highlight them more, for example.
In wine I have just started stocking Broadland’s vegan wine and it’s doing really well for a wine that isn’t on promotion. It’s also attracted a completely different customer, which we weren’t able to cater for before.
We have wines from Lyme Bay Winery, including some of its fruit wines, in flavours ranging from cherry to parsnip. These are really popular particularly in the summer and at Christmas. It also does a mead, which is selling really well. I have heard mead is becoming in-demand again as a result of the popularity of Game of Thrones.
I’ve got a tasting event for mead booked into the store in a few weeks’ time.
We also have a lot of guesthouses and hotels around here, so we see good sales of small bottles of wine and pre-mixed spirits and cocktails, to people staying nearby.
What else do you do to stay ahead of the competition?
We work with the local community. I am on the board of the Shop Watch scheme in Weymouth and I chair it, so I meet with the council regularly about that. We also do charity events in store.
Keeping a unique range is the other way we can differentiate ourselves, so we took on a lot of American imports early on, for example.
It’s big for us in soft drinks. We have loads of flavours of Fanta and they sell really well. Over the summer we were doing £2,500 a week just from US soft drinks, and people will pay £1.29 for a 33cl can for these – we have to price them high to take in the import cost and the UK sugar tax.
We try to make sure we are known for our range.