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Rural Retailer www.ruralshops.org.uk

Issue 31 l Autumn 2015

The Journal of the Rural Shops Alliance

Is a motorway services the best rural shop ever? PLUS: â—? Going dark: six months on â—? Newspaper distribution


Your contacts... for more information and news...

● Rural Shops Alliance 20 Garland, Rothley Leics. LE7 7RF ● Tel: 01305 752044 ● E-mail: info@ruralshops.org.uk ● Website: www.ruralshops.org.uk

Contents... In this issue...

3 ●

In my opinion, By RSA Chief Executive

5 ●

Your Action Checklist / A New Partner for the RSA

6 ●

The biggest Rural Shop in the Country?

12 ●

Tobacco: Six months on... Your feedback

15 ●

RSA Views: Disposable Carrier Bags; The National Living Wage - A Wake-up to Rural Retailers; Self Driving Cars; Right-to-buy Housing Association Properties

Cover image: Smiling customer service at Dale Stores

19 ●

One Stop franchises: Giving retailers a helping hand

23 ●

Dale Stores: It’s the customer service, stupid!

28 ●

Newspaper Distribution

30 ●

Avensure: Who we are...

RuralRetailer ● Published by The Rural Shops Alliance. ● Printed by: Russell Press, Nottingham. ● Design: Kavita Graphics. dennis@kavitagraphics.co.uk

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In my Opinion... What Internet adverts and village stores have in common There has been a debate in the media recently about users of computers, tablets and mobile phones using software to block the adverts that appear everywhere you go online. Like most computer users, I am dogged by the vast amount of advertising and pop-ups that appear every time I go on-line. You only have to access a site briefly and you then seem to be dogged with that company’s advertising inserted into every other site you then go on to visit. In this context, privacy is obviously a completely irrelevant concept. I therefore have sympathy with people using blocking software to avoid this vociferous pester power, but it does raise a moral dilemma. We all want to be able to access online content without charge, but of course it is the advertising that pays for it. By using the site but refusing the advertising you are getting a free ride, but if too many people do it, then we are endangering the whole business model. There is not enough income to fund the content and the site closes. There is an implied deal that if you want to access the useful website then not turning off the adverts is the price you pay for doing so.

One day recently, the RSA received a flurry of press enquiries from Scotland. There was uproar in a remote community - their much loved village shop on an island in the Outer Hebrides was closing. The media were quite desperate for our views. Luckily I had visited this shop in the past. The reason the shop was closing was because not enough people were buying stuff there to make it viable. Even in a fairly remote community, too many people were relying on their neighbours to support the shop. Next winter, when the ferries are locked in harbour and coastal roads have waves breaking over them, then they may regret losing their shop. I have resisted the temptation to install advert blocking software on my computer, despite the provocations they generate. We do need to get across the message to communities that shops, vital community asset that they are, still depend on individual people spending money to support them. Buying the occasional loaf of bread locally is a doddle compared with putting up with Internet stalkers!

Although I hesitate to compare rural shops with the Internet, there is a similarity. The vast majority of village residents are genuinely very keen to have a local shop but sometimes leave it to others to spend enough money in it to keep it going. When a village shop is under threat, it always seems to be the people who seldom use it who protest the loudest – probably the same people who switch off the Internet ads?

Issue 30 ● Summer 2015 ● RuralRetailer 3


Our Partners and sponsors...

To obtain further information on any of these companies, please contact the RSA at info@ruralshops.org.uk or phone 01305 752044 4 RuralRetailer â—? Autumn 2015 â—? Issue 31


Your Action Checklist for this issue... 1. VISIT GLOUCESTER SERVICES IF YOU’RE PASSING ON THE M5 2. REVIEW YOUR TOBACCO DISPLAY AND RANGE 3. IMPLEMENT NEW ARRANGEMENTS FOR CARRIER BAGS 4. START TO IMPROVE STAFF PRODUCTIVITY AHEAD OF THE NLW 5. CONSIDER A ONE STOP FRANCHISE 6. WOULD TAKING ON AN APPRENTICE HELP YOUR BUSINESS?

p p p p p p

SEE PAGE 6 SEE PAGE 12 SEE PAGE 15 SEE PAGE 16 SEE PAGE 19 SEE PAGE 23

A NEW PARTNER FOR THE RSA... We are very pleased to announce that the leading convenience store operator One Stop has joined the RSA as a partner. We have frequently gone on record with our belief that the future for many rural retailers lies in joining a bigger group. One Stop has been very successful in recent months in recruiting retailers to its innovative franchise model, with a small but increasing number in the rural sector. We very much look forward to working with One Stop to help them make the most of the opportunities available to them serving rural communities. Their support will undoubtedly strengthen our voice in putting the interests of rural retailers forward to government and making sure that their interests are properly taken into account when deciding policy.

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A rare breed of motorway services...

The biggest rural shop in A rare breed of motorway services— dedicated to local food, farming and local community For many rural retailers, passing trade is vital to success, boosting the business achieved from the local catchment area with customers from further afield, particularly if the shop is on a main road with a reliable flow of traffic. Now imagine that your ‘passing trade’ is in the tens of millions of vehicles each year. Not only that, but your potential customers range from HGV drivers to tourists, from commuters to school run mums; in fact, anyone who uses the M5 in Gloucestershire at any time 365 days a year, 24/7. That’s the customer base for the new

The buildings fit into the landscape

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£40million Gloucester Motorway Services, now fully open in the lee of the glorious Cotswolds escarpment near the cathedral city. Most of us using motorways for long journeys do pop into a service area. We are usually faced with an uninspiring choice of bland, branded fast food outlets, occasionally enlivened by a higher-end food store, coupled with expensive fuel and iffy toilets. Add to that a dispiriting ‘gift’ shop offering cuddly toys, CDs, sweets and car cleaning paraphernalia, and the experience at the average Services is much more a necessity than a pleasure. But since the Gloucester Services opened on the northbound stretch of the M5 last year, millions of motorway users have been blown away by a completely different Services experience.


By Beth Whittaker

the country? As you come off the motorway slip road, whether The entrance has a real “wow” factor Northbound or to the recently opened Southbound Services, you are welcomed by the unusual sight of a low, grass covered mound, a sort of hobbit house on steroids, faced at the front with a glorious Cotswold-stone wall. And when you enter the building, an interior of architectural splendour with a vaulted ceiling boasting fulllength tree trunks literally brings gasps of amazement from first-time visitors. These Services are completely different from all other service areas in the UK, except for the Tebay Services in Cumbria (the same Westmorland family business local, fresh produce sourced from a staggering is behind both), which shares many of the same 130 different growers and producers within 30 design cues. The differences do not stop there. miles of the site, and a further 70 from across the South West. There are also high quality The café has views out onto the Cotswold Hills lifestyle gifts on offer. beyond landscaped parkland and lakes, along with family-friendly discovery footpaths and Both Services have their own butchers – and the play areas. It serves only locally-sourced food – Southbound Services has its own fishmonger. every sandwich, salad, soup or Sunday roast is Cheeses and chutneys, pies and peas, carrots freshly made in the onsite kitchens. Prices are and cakes, bacon and blackcurrants, flour and competitive with other Services’ restaurant flowers, doughnuts and dolls, jams and jumpers, offerings. You can have a burger, but it is a yoghurts and yo-yos, china and chickens are all quality product, handmade on site by the presented beautifully throughout the welcoming Services’ own butcher using only local mince. 950m2 total retail space in both Services. And the farm shop is a veritable cornucopia of The four million annual visitors require a great deal of looking after. Some 400 jobs have been created at the Services, with a good proportion recruited through the Westmorland family’s partner in the whole enterprise, Gloucestershire Gateway Trust. The Trust’s academy training programme aims to get local long term unemployed people back into full time employment.

Part of the superb deli. range

The Trust is headed by local man Mark Gale whose idea it was to create a Services which

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A rare breed of motorway services...continued There is an extensive range of cheeses

would directly benefit the disadvantaged communities that the motorway traffic speeds past. Through the Trust, local community projects will share an estimated £10m income generated by the Services over the next 20 years. So, part of every £ spent in the Services café or farm shop will benefit local communities – as well as helping secure the livelihoods of local food producers and creating sustainable jobs on site. Inevitably there was considerable local controversy at the planning stage about building in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There were concerns among locals that the promises of low-impact buildings and a focus on local produce would be so much spin.

Cinderhill Farm. They use local boar, and have won quite a following, and considerable press interest too. Working with so many local producers is hugely exciting. We’re always keen to build relationships with potential new suppliers and we work hard to seek out those who have standout products.” Quality and sustainability are key for Westmorland, headed by Sarah Dunning, OBE, who was first approached by Mark Gale ten years ago to discuss the whole concept of a completely new style of motorway services, modelled on her family’s successful Tebay Services, built in the early 70s when the M6 was driven through the Dunning family farmland. Sarah says: “We see ourselves as primarily a food business, sourcing the best local products. We prepare it in our kitchens and we sell it in our cafes and farm shops. Unlike any other motorway service area, we don’t have franchises.” “Finding the right producers and working with them to give our customers the best produce and a taste of the surrounding landscape, is fundamental. Other motorway service areas do what they do very successfully. We have a particular niche in the market and we believe strongly in our alternative approach. We’ll keep innovating!”

Before work even started on the first, Northbound, site, Gloucester Services food buyer Nicky Wildin set out to find local producers with a series of ‘meet the buyer’ events. Little did she realise what a wealth of talent was within 30 minutes’ drive of the Services. “We were astonished at the sheer range of producers and growers – and the superb quality,” she says. “One of our most popular products is our wild boar sausage rolls, hand made by Forest of Dean farmers Neil and Deborah Flint from Temptations

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“From the work we’ve done over 40 years at Tebay supporting the local community and charities, to our very latest and most innovative Gloucester Services project and our work with Gloucestershire Gateway Trust to help reenergise the surrounding communities, working with local people is integral to what we do.”

There has been a huge amount of national media and political interest in the whole concept of a Services which focuses on selling local produce, with the Local Enterprise Partnership coming up with a £3m loan to ensure the Southbound side got built more quickly.

The farmshop is very spacious

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A rare breed of motorway services...continued facts...

Motorway services do not usually have a fish counter…

Although Westmorland has to ensure the Services don’t become a destination in their own right, they can’t stop Brummies barrelling down the M5 to visit the Services just for a day out, as reported recently in the local press. Commuters also regularly stop off en-route home to pick up something delicious for tea. And even HGV drivers have reported their pleasure at decent, clean showers and facilities. Once you’ve visited Gloucester Services, stopping at any other motorway services just isn’t the same... ■ For more information, see: www.gloucesterservices.com www.gloucestershiregatewaytrust.org.uk

…or an-on-site butcher!

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■ Gloucester Services Farmshop & Kitchen stocks food and craft produce from 130+ local producers within 30 miles of the Services and a further 70 producers from across the South West. Most are small scale producers and suppliers ■ Gloucester Services has had more than 450 ‘excellent’ ratings on Trip Advisor ■ There’s a total of 950 sq. m of retail space across both Northbound and Southbound services, two thirds of which is given over to foods, one third lifestyle/gifts ■ Since May 2014, the northbound Gloucester Services has served over 880,000 meals and sold 33,000 Cinderhill sausage rolls ■ Gloucester Services is the UK’s first and only motorway services to donate a percentage of its revenue to a charity arm - the Gloucestershire Gateway Trust ■ Top-selling products: Single Gloucester cheese from Godsells, tomatoes from Mudwalls Farm, cod from Newlyn, Gloucestershire Old Spot sausages and ribeye steak from Gloucester Services’ own butchery, bread from Hobbs House Bakery, local ciders and beers including Stroud Brewery and Pilton Cider, pies from Legges of Bromyard ■ Gloucester Services provides a tourist information station to raise awareness of all the great things to do and see locally ■ Wild boar from the Forest of Dean is a key ingredient in a sandwich the Services makes and sells to help raise funds for HRH Prince Charles’s Countryside Fund. Other ingredients include cheese from Godsells creamery, just a mile from the motorway services. The Prince officially opened the Southbound Services this summer ■ The Services were designed to minimise the impact on the local landscape of the surrounding Cotswold Hills, with grass-covered roofs and high sustainability credentials to achieve BREEAM Excellent. Design features reduce emissions, with air filtration systems to maintain a consistent temperature on site. The majority of waste is recycled.


six months on...

GONE DARK...

We find out how rural retailers have coped with the new tobacco display regulations six months down the line.

With few tobacco reps making the effort to visit rural shops, small retailers are like the packets themselves - in the dark about new products, so you won’t find many new ranges behind gantry shutters these days. “I won’t be taking any new lines – how can I sell them?” asks Andrew Summers, owner of Orleton Post Office & Stores in Herefordshire. “No-one’s advertising them and we can’t display

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them.” It’s a common complaint. “I’m not prepared to extend the range with new products unless a tobacco company makes it worth my while – and I can’t see that happening anymore,” adds Peter Gibbons of Siddington Village Stores in Gloucestershire. Him! Research reports that while 13% of c-store retailers have increased their range since the display ban took effect in April, 29% have reduced it. It’s also because shoppers are sticking with what they know, according to these retailers, who are bullish about their sales and clear about the


By Helen Gregory direction they’re taking the category in. “It’s had no impact on us at all,” explains Amberley Villages Stores owner Colin Woods, who says cigarettes still make up 15% of his business. “Our regulars haven’t traded down and still want their regular brands.” Imperial Tobacco’s recent study of independent retailers found that customers have largely stayed loyal to their regular retailer since the new law – only 1% had changed shop while only 3% now asked for the ‘cheapest’ brand. While it was dreaded by many, ‘going dark’ doesn’t seem to have caused too many problems for rural retailers – who are no doubt keen to avoid a £5,000 fine or six months in jail for non-compliance.

Others went for inexpensive plastic ‘curtains’ or retrofitted sliding doors. Woods at Amberley Villages Stores put up a wooden cover, integrating the display into wines and spirits – without any help from the cigarette companies, he says. “I was very disappointed by the lack of support – they totally ignored us.” While these rural retailers have been largely unaffected by the new draconian rules, Him!’s research found that 26% of c-store shoppers said they had bought fewer cigarettes/tobacco products since the ban, with problems around availability, slower service and lack of brand information cited as the reasons.

Trading Standards officers checking up on small stores are finding that almost every shop has covered its cigarette gantry, according to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. Greg Bristol, tobacco and alcohol control officer for Doncaster Trading Standards, reports that small stores are complying with regulations – although some have tried to do it on the cheap. “We’ve found people who’ve made doors from hardboard that don’t fit properly, or stuck up bits of plastic packaging – sometimes they’ve used old security shutters,” he reports. But while retailers might get advice about putting it right, Bristol doesn’t anticipate prosecuting anyone. Some shopkeepers took tobacco companies up on their offer to fit sliding doors to gantries free of charge in return for agreements to allocate space to the company’s brands. Gibbons at Siddington Village Stores signed up with an E-cigarette company which paid for his shutters. “As a result my E-cigarette sales have increased, and with margins of 40% - I’m happy about that.”

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six months on...continued The Tobacco Retailers Alliance says in some stores, staff are forced to turn their backs on customers to find the right packs - meaning inconvenience and, in some instances, more shoplifting. TRA national spokesman Suleman Khonat adds: “It’s definitely slowed down transactions in my shop because my staff are constantly looking for the right brands, causing bigger queues, which is bad news for a smaller shop.” So if sales are dipping, what can you do? Train staff to broaden their category knowledge, understand stock rotation, get to grips with new products and where products are on the gantry to speed up service, advises Jeremy Blackburn, Head of Communications at JTI. Him! adds that retailers need to be utilising space over the gantry more effectively; use posters, connect with your council and push out content via social media, it suggests. Interestingly, it seems that there might be more advice on hand as some tobacco reps are starting to make more of an appearance, as manufacturers struggle to find avenues to promote their brands. Bill Bowers, who runs

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Much Marcle post office and stores near Ledbury, reports that he’s getting regular visits from one rep after being previously “cast off”. “They’re coming back to us again – I think they want to get us on their side.” This could be even more important when the category sees yet another shake-up next year, with the arrival of plain packs causing extra problems, according to the cigarette manufacturers. JTI reckons it will provide crooks with a blue-print for counterfeiting cigarettes and it could also prove a headache for small stores. “Plain packs could be a nightmare and the worry is customers will be sold the wrong product and our lives will be made more difficult,” says Gibbons at Siddington Village Stores. “It will make it even more important to stock the right, small range.” But smokers will keep on smoking, believes Woods at Amberley Village Stores. “People will continue to do so even when the plain packs come in – if you smoke Malboro Lights, you’ll still want to smoke them, regardless of what’s on the pack.”


RSAViews Autumn 2015

Disposable Carrier Bags The new law in England imposing compulsory charges for disposable carrier bags came into force on Monday October 5th. This covers retailers employing over 250 FTEs. The experience of a similar law in Wales had very few difficulties and led to a dramatic drop in the use of disposable plastic carrier bags. Although smaller

retailers are exempt, we recommend that they should charge for these bags. If you are continuing to provide free carrier bags, then expect a rise in demand – customers will be asking for more of them for free now that supermarkets are charging for them. If you are going to charge for plastic bags, then expect demand to fall by up to 70%, so make sure you are not overstocked with them. If in the past you have relied on customers donating used supermarket bags for you to re-use, expect this source to dry up very quickly; they are now costing 5p each. Historically, a high proportion of disposable carrier bags have ended their lives used as rubbish bags. That is clearly going to change when supermarkets are charging 5p each for them. Over time, sales of plastic refuse bags are bound to rise, so keep a close eye on stocks levels. A good promotional gondola end display of refuse bags (not a phrase you see every day!) round about the end of October could well be worth a punt.

The rules in England are complicated – fresh fish on its own in a bag makes it exempt

There are arrangements to ensure that shops forced to charge for the bags donate any profits to charity and account for the monies involved. Smaller businesses can decide whether to donate any profits in this way or retain them – it’s your call.

www.ruralshops.org.uk


RSAViews

The National Living Wage - A Ian Duncan Smith’s enthusiastic response in Parliament to the Chancellor’s announcement of the introduction of a national living wage (NLW) was very memorable. Beaming smile, punching the air, genuine surprise and support for this measure. But in the world outside of Westminster, the response has been more nuanced. From April 2016, a national living wage of £7.20 per hour will apply to all workers aged 25 and over. This is a significant increase over the current national minimum wage (£6.70 per hour). The Chancellor has also promised that the NLW will rise to £9 per hour by 2020. That is 15p per minute. Add in other staff costs and the cost per minute worked is nearer 20p per minute.

This change is in part a conscious move by government to make British industry improve staff productivity. In retail this is not easy but it is a challenge you cannot ignore. Make no mistake; some retailers who do not respond to this change will go bust as a result. Here are some ideas that may help you to address the issue head-on:

Retail is one of the sectors that will be affected most, although where they can afford to, many employers do already pay at or above the national living wage. For many smaller businesses this will be an unwelcome extra cost. The problem is not just paying all staff at this higher rate but also then maintaining differentials for more senior staff. There are also extra costs in terms of NI, holiday and sick pay and pension contributions that are related to pay.

1. Raise prices. In the current fiercely competitive market place, this is not a viable option for many shopkeepers, but there may be an opportunity to increase prices on some lines.

Shop owners need to start planning their response to the NLW very soon. The increase for April 2016 may not on its own be a game changer but the prospect of wage increases surging ahead of price inflation each year until 2020 should concentrate the mind now.

2. Services often absorb a lot of staff time. You need to review whether providing some financial services remains viable, for example. Newspaper delivery rounds and home deliveries may also need reviewing. 3. Can the business continue to carry out unpaid services for the community – things like the sale of tickets for local events can take up a lot of staff time? 4. Opening hours should be reviewed. If the last hour of the day does not generate much business, but still requires two members of staff to be on duty, then this may be a wake-up call to axe it. Winter evenings can often be dead – should you have different summer and winter opening times? 5. The difference in pay between supervisory or senior staff and those on basic rates of pay has been reducing in recent years, a result of the national minimum wage. The impact of the NLW will be even more marked and we would expect many proprietors


Wake-up call to Rural Retailers balance chat with selling – it is not a social occasion. When each minute of staff time is costing 15p or more, even a short conversation can take the profit from the sale of a newspaper. 10.Invest in new equipment. Properly used, a modern EPoS system can save significant staff time as well as its other benefits. (Email support@ruralshops.org.uk for details of our special deal on EPoS systems). Self-service checkouts for customers are currently only found in bigger stores but this will change in the future as customers become more used to them and their cost goes down.

to have to reduce differentials, however unfair this may seem.

11.Ensure your store systems use staff efficiently. For example, is shelf replenishment carried out piecemeal rather than efficiently?

6. Employ more staff under the age of 25 who are not subject to the NLW. In practice, this may means employing more students. However, many shopkeepers (sensibly) believe that staff doing the same job should be paid equally irrespective of age.

12.Often staff work hours that suit them – parents fitting round their childcare commitments for example – rather than when the shop ideally needs them. In future, the needs of the business may need to be given a higher priority in this mix.

7. The introduction of NLW is a chance to discuss work practices with staff. Paying employees significantly more per hour means that you can expect more from them, such as taking more responsibility or providing better customer service. Past working practices might not be acceptable in the future. In some cases, it might quite simply involve just working harder. In all of this, managers must have high expectations but they do have to lead by example.

13.Ensure deliveries from your wholesaler arrive when staff can be scheduled to receive them efficiently.

8. Ensure you only take on motivated and hard-working staff – you will be demanding more from them in the future and cannot afford passengers.

■ We would be delighted to hear your ideas on how to improve staff productivity – please email us at hq@ruralshops.org.uk

9. The good relationship between staff and customers is crucial in rural retailing. Nevertheless staff need to

DOING NOTHING IS NOT AN OPTION

14.Consider having stock delivered rather than using your time to visit the cash and carry – your time may be too valuable to spend an afternoon or more a week doing this. 15.Reduce the number of very slow selling products stocked.


RSAViews

Self Driving Cars Predictions about the future are usually wrong, but here’s a hostage to fortune…… Part of the role of government is to be more long-term in its thinking than those of us living our lives from day to day. There is often little evidence of this in practice. A classic case could be the development of fully autonomous (driverless) cars. Even a few years ago, these were in the realms of science fiction, but they are now poised to be allowed to use some public roads in America. The motor industry is expecting very rapid developments – remember how quickly other computerbased products have become mass market. In a decade or so, electric powered driverless cars could be mass market. This would be a huge game-changer for many industries. Most commentators have concentrated on the impact in cities, but in fact the way of life in rural areas could also be affected. Suddenly older people can stay fully mobile even if they are unable to drive themselves – their mobility is massively enhanced. Hiring a vehicle for a journey will be much cheaper than currently – much of the cost of a taxi is paying for the driver – whilst a lot of people will come to rely on cheap car-sharing schemes

rather than own their own vehicle. Potentially, driverless delivery vans will make the fulfilment of on-line shopping orders much cheaper. It is hard to predict the impact on rural retailing, but it could be the biggest change since the arrival of rural bus routes in the 1920’s disrupted the market. Alternatively, if aggressive hacking makes it impossible to guarantee the integrity of the computer systems controlling these vehicles, then they may not be allowed on the roads at all. ■ We would be very interested in your views – email us to hq@ruralshops.org.uk

Right-to-buy Housing Association Properties There have been reports recently that the government are backtracking on the vexed issue of selling housing association properties at a large discount to their tenants. Rural housing could be exempted from the scheme. If this is true, it would be a significant victory for good sense over political doctrine – one can’t help feeling that the whole idea is an attempt by George Osbourne to establish himself as a worthy heir to Margaret Thatcher.


one stop franchises...

Giving retailers a helping hand – how a One Stop franchise can work in a rural area Each year, the figures show a significant number of independent retailers opting to join a symbol or franchise group. The RSA has consistently held the view that rural retailers should at least weigh up the pros and cons of doing so. The trade press has recently included several articles about convenience retailers switching their stores to the One Stop franchise. The numbers doing so certainly suggest that their offer is proving attractive to a growing number of store operators. One Stop is a retail convenience business that runs over 770 neighbourhood stores itself across the country. The Company’s franchise model was officially launched in 2014 and, with a growing network now in excess of 100 franchisees, it was recently named the bfa HSBC

Emerging Franchisor of the Year 2015. One Stop is predominantly a neighbourhood retailer, although it also has stores that are located within city centres or very rural locations. Its franchise model offers independent retailers a funded refit, expert guidance on the ranges to stock, plus training for all the team on its EPoS and back office systems. Most importantly of all, they provide an ongoing business development manager to help you to drive sales and profits. It’s quite unique in the sector, as it’s a consumer-driven model based on the fact that One Stop is a proven retailer, not a wholesaler. One Stop’s years of experience mean that it operates its stores simply and efficiently, so it shares these ways of working with its franchisees.

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one stop franchises...continued Head of Franchise Operations, John Miller, explains: “Rural stores have their own challenges. They have to provide for a much wider spread community compared with a typical convenience store, as their customers will often be located up to five miles away and sometimes even further. But it’s still important to offer a great range at competitive prices, in order to satisfy customer demand.” Jim Benbow’s store is located in the hill-farming community of Ipstones, in the Staffordshire Moorlands, around 15 miles east of Stoke-on-Trent. The store has been in existence for well over 100 years and is featured in local history books. Jim has owned it for the last 10 years. The catchment area has evolved in terms of the employment it provides. The area once had a strong mining tradition and it even accommodated an ammunition store during the war. The shop itself has also changed significantly over the last century. Jim took the decision to join One Stop’s franchise operation in the summer of 2014 and following a

The outside of the shop at Ipstones has hardly changed in 100 years...

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The Manea One Stop - a view of the inside

full refit the store re-opened on 17th October last year. “I talked to a number of groups before making the decision to join One Stop,” Jim revealed. “The things that really stood out with the Franchise model were the improved margins available, the consumer-focused offer and the fact that their people really understand retailing. The majority have all progressed from the shop floor and know the business and its ways of working inside out.


The Manea One Stop is meeting the needs of the local community

“I was unhappy with the lack of direction with my prior symbol group and my margins have improved significantly since I moved to One Stop. Overall it’s been a really positive change for the business, although it’s not been without its challenges. Being in such a rural area means that we have to appeal to a wider demographic compared with a typical One Stop store. We’re the only shop in the village and for many surrounding villages too and we have a lot of traditional customers who still do a big weekly shop. “Price is important, but you don’t have to be really cheap, you just have to offer good value and the One Stop promotions help to emphasise that message in-store. Our range is the most important thing for many of our older customers. And whilst the younger ones were delighted by our switch to One Stop, the older generation weren’t sure at first. We’ve had to tweak our ranges to ensure we’re still catering for them – for example we re-introduced loose produce, as it was clearly a vital part of our offer. And the recent range re-sets across

grocery, chilled and frozen have improved things too. Plus of course we have the ability to stock local products via our 5% store selection option, whilst the model does give you flexibility within categories to make your own ranging decisions. “Whilst One Stop is owned by Tesco, it is a separately run company and I think as a franchisee you get the best of both worlds. You benefit from Tesco’s scale and from One Stop’s convenience expertise. But you also have the

….although the sales floor is completely modern

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one stop franchises...continued opportunity to help shape the model and you do really feel part of a team, as Franchise is constantly working to help us improve our businesses.” Another good example of a rural retailer that has benefited from One Stop Franchise’s expert input is Bharat Sisodiya, who is based in the Fenlands of Cambridgeshire, in the small village of Manea.

KEY FACTS FROM ONE STOP ABOUT THEIR FRANCHISE ■ We work together to help you grow your business – it’s an ongoing partnership ■ Our offer is consumer-focused, helping to drive sales and increase basket spend ■ We make a significant investment in your refit and EPoS, but it’s still your store ■ Our prices help you to increase your margins ■ We make retailing much simpler ■ We work towards improving things for the local community ■ The result is generally happy customers! With a long drive to the nearest town, Bharat counts a lot of farmworkers and harvesters amongst his customers, with tractors parked outside the shop proving to be a common sight. Like Jim’s store in Ipstones, the Manea One Stop attracts customers from up to 5 miles away. Time after time, we feature stores in editions of Rural Retailer that are doing well despite the apparent lack of potential customers in their catchment areas. What we have learned is that if a shop can provide customers with the offer they want, then sales and profit will follow. Customers seem to come from nowhere. For many rural retailers, One Stop could be the way to make that happen.

MORE INFORMATION ■ If you are interested in finding out more about the One Stop Franchise model, you can contact them as follows:

The Ipstones One Stop - another view of the exterior

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■ Telephone: 01543 363003 ■ Website: www.openaonestop.co.uk ■ Twitter: @1StopFranchise


dale stores...

By Peter Brooker

It’s the customer service, stupid! Shakespeare claimed that ‘All the world’s a stage’ in As you like it and there’s certainly a touch of the theatre as you enter Dale Stores in the picturesque village of Birstwith in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire. There’s a real buzz in the store, generated by the constant flow of customers, most of whom seem to be on first name terms with the shop staff, as well as the friendly banter from the staff themselves. That’s because Matthew and Andrea Walwyn have worked tirelessly with their team to make Dale Stores one of the best village stores around in the nine years they’ve been there. Matthew and Andrea took over the store in 2006 and set about filling it with great quality, locally sourced products. But as the store is just 524sq ft. including back areas, every bit of space needs to work hard.

Matthew and Andrea

As well as a wide range of the usual groceries, the shelves, chillers and deli counter are filled with a profusion of locally sourced products such as ready meals, cheeses, cooked meats, cakes, pastries and even Yorkshire Chorizo Sausage. And then there’s the ‘AJs’ own label range that includes biscuits, jams, preserves, sauces and pickles. AJs is named after Andrea, whose middle name is Joanne. “From the start, we were determined to provide the kind of exceptional service and range of products that we would like to experience ourselves,” says Andrea. “This gives us the autonomy and power to source whatever products we liked, provided it is the best quality and adheres to our strict food ethos of welfare, sustainability and food miles. With fresh daily deliveries from local producers, we’re able to support their businesses while providing our customers with the best quality locally produced food.”

Issue 31 ● Autumn 2015 ● RuralRetailer 23


dale stores...continued

Hayley behind the well-stocked serveover deli.

Hayley’s story Hayley left school knowing she wanted to pursue a career in food and drink, but not knowing where to start. As a farmer’s daughter, good food has always been prominent in her life and she cares deeply about rural and countryside issues. When Andrea and Matthew met Hayley, it was clear they all shared similar values, so when they offered her the chance to join the Dale Stores team as an apprentice, she jumped at the chance. Since then Hayley has completed three apprenticeship courses with the local college in Harrogate, in Food & Drink, Retailing and Leadership & Management. Recently appointed store manager, Hayley has taken on responsibility for environmental health issues, ensuring that the kitchen is fully compliant with all the regulations, and has started doing appraisals for other members of the team.

24 RuralRetailer ● Autumn 2015 ● Issue 31

But Dale Stores is far more than that. It is also the Post Office and has an exceptional thriving food-to-go business, which serves businesses for miles around as well as locals and passing workmen. “When we arrived, sandwiches were made on the main counter in between serving customers with their groceries,” explains Matthew. “We’ve converted a storeroom to create a small food preparation area and have steadily expanded the menu so that we now offer an extensive breakfast menu, a full range of sandwiches, salad boxes, paninis, jacket potatoes and a hot roast meat sandwich of the day.” The food-to-go side doesn’t just rely on passing trade. “We’ve built up a mailing list of around 50 local businesses and we email them every Sunday with the menu and specials for the following week. They ring in with orders daily and we can find ourselves making 200 to 250 sandwiches a day as well as all the cooked food. Being a relatively wealthy area, there are always workmen around and they come in, often


travelling several miles to come here. We have quite a reputation for our food-to-go, which now accounts for around a third of turnover.” Which brings us to customer service. Andrea and Matthew have another secret ingredient: their team of three full-time and two part-time staff. “We have always believed that training is absolutely essential if you want to provide first class customer service. Hayley, our store manager, has recently completed her third apprenticeship (see panel), while Savannah, who works in the kitchen has recently completed a food and drink apprenticeship course,” says Andrea. “We are very proud of our people and we know we couldn’t maintain our success without their enthusiasm, commitment and hard work. By allowing the team to develop through continuous training with industry-recognised qualifications, they have confidence in themselves, are highly motivated and feel they have a stake in the business. This is a true winwin situation.” In 2014, Matthew and Andrea embarked on their biggest development to date. After months of pressure from the Post Office, they finally agreed to convert the fortress counter to a Local. “There’s no denying that working with POL was a challenge, especially as they kept changing their minds over what could be done and who was paying,” admits Matthew, “but it has been worth it.” The additional space from demolishing the fortress enabled them to move a large chiller to the back of the, now larger, store, along with additional shelving, and so drive customers

Issue 31 ● Autumn 2015 ● RuralRetailer 25


dale stores...continued deeper into the shop. A central gondola had to be removed to enable the chiller to be moved to the rear of the shop and it was decided not to replace it. “We had some idea what we wanted but the refurbishment was an evolution,” says Matthew. “For example, we saw the space that was left when the gondola was removed could be better used and also realised that more customers were coming into the shop.” “That’s because anyone peering through the door when more than two or three people were inside, thought the shop was full of customers and it would take ages to be served. Now, they come in instead of going away.” While many shop owners converting to the Post Office Local format have complained that it’s costly to run, having lost their core tier payment, Matthew and Andrea feel that the

26 RuralRetailer ● Autumn 2015 ● Issue 31

overall impact, along with the refurbishment, has been positive. “All of us have been thoroughly trained,” they say, “and Anna, who used to work behind the fortress, still works full-time in the shop, so is our PO guru.” It’s doubtful that anyone who visited Dale Stores ten years ago would recognise it today.


Blackboard with the food to go menu

It’s obvious that all the changes have been worth it, with turnover nearly three times higher than when Andrea and Matthew took it over. And behind every one of those changes has been a single guiding principle – providing exceptional customer service.

The RSA View There are two key lessons that can be learnt from Dale Stores. One is how training and developing staff can both benefit the business and also allow proprietors to delegate, making their own lives better balanced, as well as obviously helping the staff themselves. This point is particularly pertinent with the introduction of the National Living Wage. To justify their higher wages staff must become more productive and training is a key way to achieve this. The second pointer is how a highly developed foodto-go offer can really take off in terms of sales, far more than we would have expected. The right catchment area is obviously important, but Matthew and Andrea have really shown how a high quality and properly-marketed offer can really transform the viability of a small rural convenience store.

Helping other retailers Andrea is a fully qualified assessor with a Certificate in Assessing Vocational Achievement and the Award in Education and Training.. She has a real passion for the training and development of young staff, commenting, “The lack of young people coming in to the rural retail sector is a worry for me. It is just not perceived as a career option. Apprenticeships instil a sense of pride and purpose to those who have limited job opportunities locally.” Andrea can deliver and assess apprenticeships and bespoke training programmes for other retailers. This can include recruiting the right candidates and then working with education boards to deliver appropriate training and assessment. This ensures that these apprentices not only pass their courses but also have the practical skills to help drive a business forward. ■ To see how Andrea can help your business, call her on 07779 263 199. Issue 31 ● Autumn 2015 ● RuralRetailer 27


“Who wants yesterday’s papers?.... Nobody in the w

Newspaper distri RSA NATIONAL MEETING When we visit rural shops, there are some topics that retailers often raise with us, and close to the top of the list often comes the difficulties they face with newspaper and magazine supplies. It was therefore no surprise when the retail members of our National Meeting asked us to organise a session on this topic. We were delighted to welcome a senior manager from Menzies Distribution to our National Meeting to give us an insight into the operation and explain the issues to us.

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world!” Jagger & Richards

bution A specialist operation... In the past, there has been a lot of talk and investigation into the current situation where Smith’s news and Menzies Distribution have monopolies in different parts of the country. The very tight timeschedules do make it a specialist operation.

System highlights...

This in itself is a high barrier for any new entrant to the market but it is also a market in decline. Over the past 15 years, UK newspaper sector sales have declined from about 12 million copies per day to about 8 million, a trend that is likely to continue as more and more people access news electronically rather than through a physical paper copy.

■ Sell Outs highlighted

Menzies expects this significant volume decline to be accompanied by publishers trying to review prices in order to counter the decline in sales. The Sunday market will continue to be the hardest hit in terms of volume sales.

■ Seasonal retailers identified & performance tracked throughout the ‘season’

The allocation of copies is a highly sophisticated operation, with the main factors taken into account shown as follows:

■ Automatic sell out cover avoids consecutive sellouts ■ Customer Profiles created to target specific copies

■ Branch / Independent / Multiple / Postcode / ANMW / Customer List detail available to filter. ■ Allocations checked via a “Reality Check” option. ■ All checks are investigated & verified prior to final sign off and transmission to the Branches ■ Ongoing / Daily updates of National and local events ■ Breaking News and Local interest stories monitored via internet

Issue 31 ● Autumn 2015 ● RuralRetailer 29


newspaper distribution...continued A common complaint from retailers is when their newspaper delivery arrives late, particularly frustrating for those that still have newspaper delivery rounds when time is particularly critical. Retailers are in the slightly unfortunate position of being at the end of a complex operation that is extremely time

critical, where any delay and the system is very difficult indeed to make up – there is very little slack. Delays can be caused by a number of factors, ranging from publishers squeezing in a late breaking news story right through to problems on the roads. The “newspaper cycle” can be visualised as follows:

Menzies’ figures suggest that the idea that multiples receive a better service is a myth, with the data showing that in the main independent customers benefit from a similar availability to multiples in the newspaper and magazine categories.

emphasise the importance of getting ranging in display right in the magazine category – it really is essential to have key titles boldly displayed even at the expense of other magazine categories.

Unfortunately magazine sales are showing a similar long-term downward trend to newspapers. Women’s interests, TV listings and children’s magazines make up nearly 2/3 of the total category share, with remaining sales spread over a wide range of titles. This does

30 RuralRetailer ● Autumn 2015 ● Issue 31

Newspapers are perhaps the ultimate short shelf life product. They are certainly something that a lot of customers still want to buy locally on a daily basis. Despite the long-term decline in sales, they will remain an important part of the offer for many thousand rural retailers for many years to come.


Avensure...

Avensure... Who we are... Founded on a philosophy of efficiency and excellence, Avensure is a premium, insurance-backed employment law and health and safety specialist that prides itself on offering its clients a high level of personalised service. Avensure is at home in the retail sector. We have a lot of retail clients, ranging from national retail outlets employing hundreds of people across multiple locations, to single stores with a handful of staff. We understand how retail employers operate and tailor our support accordingly.

What we do Employment law affects all businesses. From our experience of working with retail organisations, the most common employment issues include employee conduct, managing a resignation and contracts. Employee conduct (or misconduct) is a common issue across retail due to a number of factors. These include the flexible nature of work, recruitment mistakes, high staff turnover, management practices and the use of temporary contracts. Resignation is another common issue in retail due to the high staff turnover and use of temporary or flexible contracts. For the majority of retail staff, employment is not career based or a permanent option. The resignation process needs to be managed and documented in order to avoid issues - mismanagement can be costly.

How we work with you We can review your existing documentation, including employment contracts and staff handbooks, to ensure they meet your requirements. We provide these documents to meet your specific requirements, plus a programme to help you implement them. We will always come out to meet you face-to-face so that we fully understand your business and its needs. When things go wrong, we can provide you with a dedicated HR support team, accessible 24hours a day, 7 days a week, to help you resolve your employment problems. The size and experience of our teams make them very responsive and efficient. Our legal team will also advise and represent you in a Tribunal Court should a problem escalate. At this point you will be protected by our full-indemnity package, covering the cost of your legal bills incurred as part of a specific case. We are here to take the weight off your back and let you get on with running your business. ■ The Avensure Helpline, ring: 0330 1026143.

Issue 31 ● Autumn 2015 ● RuralRetailer 31


RURAL RETAILER Autumn 2015  

The journal of the Rural Shops Alliance, with information and advice for rural shops and the communities they serve in the UK

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