Although facing fierce local competition, Partners for Growth panel member and multi award winning convenience retailer David Charman, has been experiencing record sales following a three year improvement plan of his Spar Parkfoot store.
David commented, “We have six supermarkets and several convenience stores all within a three mile radius, so our shoppers have plenty of options when it comes to where to spend their hard-earned money. To help sway that choice in favour of Parkfoot, we need to ensure we provide them with what they want from a store, so we regularly ask shoppers their views, and the findings have helped shape our improvement plan.”
Keen to see the changes that have been made, the Partners for Growth team were delighted when David offered to host a quarterly Retailer Advisory Panel meeting.
During the visit, David shared his vision for the business and walked us through the store developments, which were numerous.
One panel member commented, “What David and his team have managed to achieve in such a short period of time is really impressive. As well as a first class forecourt, it’s also an award-winning convenience store, a full-on Butchers shop, a Village Bakery, a quality Off Licence, a CTN, a weekly shop Grocery Store and a Cafe, all rolled into one! It’s a great example to other retailers of what can be achieved with focus, hard work, some investment and a great team – its hardly surprising that one customer called it the Harrods of garages!”
So impressed were the panel with the improvements, that they felt we should share the details of the many improvements to help other retailers develop their own improvement plan.
- Meal for Tonight – As well as the meal-for-tonight item’s, David is a great fan of Cook Foods products. They have proven so popular with his customers, he has increased his space allocation to accommodate eight cabinets, and despite this he still has to restock the cabinets daily.
- Food-to-Go – they now offer hot and cold filled sandwiches made onsite using fresh ingredients from the bakery, delicatessen and butchers, and frequently run breakfast deals of a hot drink and a breakfast bap or croissant, which has proven very popular making his store a destination in the morning.
- Hot drinks – Tchibo’s premium ‘Smokin Bean’ coffee is now offered, sited at the front of store together with a seating area. In a drive to reduce plastic waste, they also sell re-usable cups for just £2.99, which entitles customers to a reduced price coffee each time it is used.
- Fresh meat – David has opened his own butchers in store. West Malling Butchers is staffed by a team of four butchers and offers top quality cuts of meat to satisfy the most discerning of customers. Customers can either buy at the counter or online via a new online ‘click and collect’ service for customers buying in bulk for events. They offer seasonal meats depending on the time of year catering for BBQ’s in the Summer, and Turkeys at Christmas – last December they received orders for over 400 Turkey’s!
- Grocery – Parkfoot’s grocery range means they cater equally well for shoppers wanting to do a full weekly shop, as they do for those on just a top-up mission.
- Off Licence – it isn’t a surprise that David is proud of the quality of his Off Licence, as it includes a range of beers, wines and spirits for all budgets. It includes some very high-end wines, specialist brands of lager, as well as local craft ales and ciders.
- Fresh flowers – David offers an extensive range of fresh flowers provided by an award winning local florist. The flowers are pre-wrapped in craft paper and sales are going from strength-to-strength – as such this is a category seeing continued development.
- Bakery – as well as a comprehensive range of freshly baked traditional and artisan breads, David has a premium Patisserie offering, which includes delicious cakes and a wide choice of breakfast pastry options.
- Fresh & chilled – there is an extensive ‘Fresh and Chilled’ offering to rival many supermarkets, with a range of local produce and fresh fish available.
- Fresh orange juice – as well as chilled and slush drinks, Parkfoot have introduced freshly squeezed orange juice, served in their own recyclable bottles, again to reduce plastic waste.
- Click and collect – David has set up a dedicated new ‘click and collect’ area adjacent to an extended new parking area, so that customers can quickly and effortlessly pick up their online and telephone food orders.
- Car care – David has invested in four new state of the art jet wash booths, three powerful new car vacs, and a dedicated new car wash app, that provides loyal customers with better value. He’s also created a dedicated new reception area that also serves as his ‘click and Collect’ pick-up point. As well as a better customer experience, he is benefiting from lower costs through greater efficiency, improved reliability, improved environmental credentials as the water is sourced from his own bore hole.
- Pricing – David has introduced electronic point of sale for store pricing, which means price changes are at the click of a button, which has saved a huge amount of time. What’s more, it also ensures pricing compliance consistency and provides the ability for time of day pricing changes.
- Recycling – David has had a big purge on the cost of recycling Parkfoot’s waste. Just by focusing on exactly what is recycled, David and his team have been able to reduce waste costs from £6,000 to £2,000 a year.
- Security – a small number of shoppers don’t always pay for their items! Parkfoot store have introduced a new state of the art security system in-store. All items that are unscanned will set off an alarm, which David hopes will minimise theft issues.
- Social media – the Parkfoot team have thrown themselves into social media, and now communicate news and special offers directly through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
- Lastly, David has built his own office area and boardroom, which gives him the space and privacy to run his growing business, as well as provide for a first class on-site training room.
So how has David managed to implement so many sweeping changes in a relatively short space of time? David attributes his achievements to two key things:
First and foremost, he puts it down to his amazing team; He has long held the view that for a business to be successful, it is essential to have an engaged and loyal team, so he set about creating the right conditions for this to happen.
Central to this was his belief that people should be paid a national living wage, David was a vocal advocate of this when he introduced it at Parkfoot. He found by doing so, he had the choice of the best quality people, who have remained exceptionally loyal, which is unusual in the retail industry.
He has also worked hard to foster a caring and stimulating environment at work, which enables his team to flourish and grow not only professionally, but personally too.
He provides extensive training, not just so his team are equipped to take responsibility and give the most to their roles at work, but also to help them learn new things that broaden their horizons outside of work. When a couple of his team said they would like to learn to sign, he was happy to organise sign language training, which many of the team have now taken up.
Finally, in an age of reports of exploitation of people in the retail environment, David limits his team to 40 hours work a week and insists they take regular breaks during their shifts because he feels it is important that people have a quality of life, both in and out of work.
Since starting on the journey of improvement, he has increased the size of his team from 26 to 54, a sign of the scale of the task he took on with his improvement plan.
The second factor key to the success of the business is David’s determination to retain as much control of his business as possible, particularly when entering into supplier contracts.
That’s why when he negotiates a contract with a supplier, he looks for a solution that leaves him with maximum control and flexibility to manage and promote his business.
Indeed, his choice of Spar as his Symbol partner was driven by this philosophy, as he felt they allowed him greater flexibility to influence and control his business compared with other Symbol partners he looked at, so he feels they are a natural fit for him.
David commented. “As an independent retailer, maintaining the maximum control in running my business is important to me, as it allows me to grow it in the way I want, without being tied to sometimes overbearing restrictions stopping me from doing this.”
With all the changes in place it’s not surprising that Parkfoot has experienced its best weekly sales ever, but it does go to show that hard work does pay off!