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Rural Retailer

Issue 32 l Winter 2015/16

The Journal of the Rural Shops Alliance

Promotional Calendar 2016 PLUS:

n Sugar & obesity n LEADER grants

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

l Rural Shops Alliance 20 Garland, Rothley Leics. LE7 7RF l Tel: 01305 752044 l E-mail: l Website:

Contents... In this issue...

3 l

In my opinion, By RSA Chief Executive

5 l

Your Action Checklist / 2016 – Our Predictions

6 l

Northern Lights – Rothley, Leicestershire

13 l

RSA Views: Suger and childhood obesity; Local Authorities facing long term budget cuts

Cover image: A rural sorting office at work early in the morning

16 l

2016 promotional calendar

19 l

RSA Views: Business banking in rural Post Offices; Carrier bags

21 l

Because we’re very kind

23 l

My Perfect Shop

24 l

A better way to stock Tobacco

26 l

What prices should we charge in our store?

29 l

Reposs / Counterfeit Banknote Advice

31 l

Leader Programme: Grants for rural businesses

RuralRetailer l Published by The Rural Shops Alliance. l Printed by: Russell Press, Nottingham. l Design: Kavita Graphics.

2 RuralRetailer l Winter 2015/16 l Issue 32

In my Opinion... Time – Its not a given... Like most people, there are some aspects of the world that I find very difficult to understand. One of these is the laws of physics as expounded by Albert Einstein. In particular, the idea that time is not fixed is something that I can sort of understand when it is explained to me but 10 min later my comprehension gradually slips away, until I return to my usual state of befuddlement. However, at a less exalted level, I can understand how this sort of works in the real world. Many years ago, when I worked for a major supermarket chain, our managing director used to spend Saturdays going out and visiting stores on an informal basis, arriving unannounced at a store, much to the panic of the store manager, and then spending time talking to managers, supervisors, staff and customers to get a real feel of the business. This was an excellent practice but one that those of us in the marketing department learnt to dread. It meant that he came back into head office on Monday morning with a list of proposed changes, all of which needed to be implemented in several hundred stores by the following Friday ready for the following weekend’s trading. That was the timescale we worked to. By contrast, I was in a rural shop the other week where the lights in the upright freezer had not worked for about two months and they still had not been fixed. It is hard to quantify how many sales of frozen food had been lost as a result and the impact on the overall image of the store – a dark freezer does not look terribly inviting. Of course the proprietors of many small shops would have treated this issue with the urgency it demands. However , the difference between these two attitudes does

highlight the importance of professional management even in very small stores. Government and the civil service often seem to operate on both timescales. A sudden crisis can often lead to a panicked response, whilst conversely other decisions are not just kicked into the long grass but booted deep into the impenetrable jungle. A classic case in point would be the decision on London airports, which has been bubbling along (without exaggeration) for about 50 years. So where does this leave rural shops? The introduction of the national living wage from 2016 will be increasing staff costs for many small rural shops every year at least until 2020. My fear is that many owners are telling us that their response will be to work even more hours themselves behind the counter. This is worrying. If the manager is working long hours effectively as a shop assistant, they will not have the time or energy to manage the business day-to-day. This means that basic problem-solving, such as replacement of dead bulbs in refrigeration, does not happen. Even less is there time to actually sit down occasionally and plan the future of the business. Albert Einstein’s theories tell us that time is not constant, it is something that we can influence by our actions. Active management is something that retail business can survive without for years. However, to thrive it does need the weekly fine tuning that I experienced in the supermarket environment.

Issue 32 l Winter 2015/16 l RuralRetailer 3

Our Partners and sponsors...

To obtain further information on any of these companies, please contact the RSA at or phone 01305 752044 4 RuralRetailer l Winter 2015/16 l Issue 32

Your Action Checklist for this issue...

p p p p p p



2016 - OUR PREDICTIONS... The most important economic news of the last few weeks probably came from the USA, where interest rates have at last risen slightly from their historically unprecedented low point. There may be a long gap before the UK follow suit but inevitably that day will come; some consumers who have overcommitted themselves will find themselves under financial pressure. We would expect the pressure on the profitability of rural shops to continue into the New Year. In particular, consumers will continue to use a lot of different shops to source their food. Amazon is gearing up to take on the major supermarkets with its “Fresh” service, promising same day delivery at least in large urban areas. The mainstream supermarkets are likely to see their online business continue to grow, whilst the

discounters will also be hitting them by increasing their market share. Don’t expect price pressures to ease anytime soon in the market! Many rural businesses will see their staff costs increase as the national living wage comes into force in April. This will particularly hit some community owned shops where wages currently make up a high proportion of total costs. Affected retailers, be they commercial or community, do need to consider their options now. Making changes to staffing takes time to implement Unless there is a massive legal upset, tobacco will start going into plain packaging in May 2016. The health lobby now have sugar firmly in their sights and government action to reduce sugar consumption, particularly by children, would seem a certainty.

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Rothley, Leicestershire...

Northern Lights The fabulous celebration cakes, desserts and pastries made by the North family at their deli patisserie in deeply rural Rothley, Leicestershire are so delicious that customers regularly drive 30 miles to buy them. With top hotels and restaurants across the UK also crying out for the delicious treats, it’s a far cry from the day Eric North started in business just after the war – selling eggs, by bicycle. But the family has always set its sights – and standards - high. Grandfather North’s egg-selling entrepreneurial skills were so successful, he knocked out the ground floor of the family home in the rural

6 RuralRetailer l Winter 2015/16 l Issue 32

village to create a traditional grocers shop in the 1950s, rapidly building a reputation for top quality produce. Keen to develop the business, he sent son David to France in 1960 to learn about fine wines and cheese. This was at a time when most English greengrocers bore a striking resemblance to Ronnie Barker’s Open All Hours, where the closest you got to fine wines and a cheese selection was a pot of stilton and a dusty bottle of Sanatogen. David is now 74 and still cheerfully running the deli side of the North family business alongside his son Dominic – a master pâtissier - in the same building, which still looks like an attractive

By Beth Whittaker

family house despite expanding over the years to meet the needs of a growing enterprise. David had a wonderful time in France, soaking up knowledge about fine wines and good food, and becoming really passionate about the business. “It was a real experience,” he recalls. “In those days people in England weren’t interested in continental foods outside the big cities. You could find an occasional Polish deli and French and Italian restaurant, but not much else. As a family, we decided to expand the traditional grocery offer, which was way before its time – we blazed a trail for more cosmopolitan tastes. “After returning from France, I got a job at Leicester’s top department store Simpkin and James to learn all I could about retailing, before coming back home to Rothley to build up the deli business.”

About six years ago, David decided to cut back on supplying fresh fruit and veg to hotels and restaurants across the region to focus on the deli, offering a veritable cornucopia of new and classic wines, cheeses and charcuterie, unusual and traditional products and gifts, sourced from all corners of the world – but quality is the key, echoed in the North’s mouth-watering website which helps boost sales. David’s unrivalled knowledge of his profession and experience in the business for 50 years, together with the most discriminating of palates, helps guide customers through the trickiest dinner party or a family picnic with the same warmth and care. The wonderfully richly-coloured displays in the deli hint at David’s creative side – as a young man, he wanted to study art but the pull of the family business was too strong. “The display is a collage of colours, tastes and aromas. It allows me to express my artistic side!” he says.

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Rothley, Leicestershire...continued The deli business has two full-time and seven part-time staff and David and his wife Wendy are still in the thick of it – Eric continued working until he was 89! David adds: “I still love discovering new products, flavours and tastes and go up to Partridges and other top retailers in London, as well as the food exhibitions, to check out the new cheeses and other products which are selling. Not everything goes down well with customers though – a pecorino cheese with truffle which I thought was fantastic, was not appreciated at all!” Of course, Leicestershire is famed for its stilton – and David buys from the top suppliers in the country as well as direct from the cheesemakers. He delights in the huge growth in artisan cheesemakers across the UK, many of whom are represented in the shop.

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The patisserie side of the burgeoning North business is down to David’s son Dominic who, at 18, went to study at the UK’s longestestablished cookery school, the Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Woking, Surrey, where his

aptitudes led to him working with top patisserie chef, Michael Nadel, to hone his talents. “Dominic’s fantastic patisserie skills were recognised quite early on, so, once again, we

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Rothley, Leicestershire...continued expanded the family premises into the cellar to create a kitchen for him to really focus on that,” says David. “Now he has a fantastic team of more than 25 people working for him, creating the most wonderful celebration cakes and pastries. But he also works at the weekend to create the savouries for the deli.” Dominic and his partner Jules also run a deli and 25-cover café in the delightful market town of Ashby de la Zouch and two years ago, opened North’s Tea Shop at a nearby garden centre. They supply celebration cakes, desserts and pastries to some of the country’s top venues as well as major wholesalers, hotels and restaurants. But individual customers are still at the heart of the business. “It’s quite extraordinary how far people will travel to visit the shop,” says David. “People divert off the M1 and customers drive 30 miles from Derby and Nottingham. We even have a customer who lives near Silverstone who visits regularly and ex-pats back visiting the UK stock up on things they just can’t buy where they live now. “We have a nucleus of really good suppliers – but we’re always looking for new, top quality,

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stock and there’s a never ending stream of suppliers who contact us due to our reputation. We aim to sell as many exclusive items as possible – certainly Dominic’s creations are completely unique to him - and we have a range of own label deli products. We’ve always put quality and service at the heart of everything we do; it’s part of the family ethos. We maintain exceptionally high standards. Our premises and procedures are fully accredited to BRC Grade A Standard.” The North’s shop is next to the delightful Rothley station – part of the Great Central heritage railway – which brings lots of visitors in the summer. But expansion of the business has also brought challenges in terms of car parking. With no public parking nearby, the Norths bought the field next door and did battle with local planners before finally being allowed to create a small car park.

“Over the years, we have encountered numerous planning objections, usually around parking, as we expanded the business, creating work for dozens of local people. We have to deal with too much red tape,” says David. He plans to have a word with local customer Anna Soubry MP - who also happens to be Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise - about this particular challenge of running a rural business, next time she pops in. Grandfather North’s original bicycle takes pride of place in the window of the smart, whitewashed premises in Rothley. “Luckily, Eric was still alive to see Dominic starting out in business and he was extremely proud, and I know he’d be delighted at how the family business has now encompassed three generations. Now I’m just hoping granddaughter Lottie will show an interest; but she’s only seven!” adds David. n

Issue 32 l Winter 2015/16 l RuralRetailer 11

RSAViews Winter 2015/16

SUGAR AND CHILDHOOD OBESITY The Parliamentary Health Committee has recently published a report, “Childhood Obesity – Brave and Bold Action”. One fifth of children are overweight or obese when they begin school, and this figure increases to one third by the time they leave primary school. Furthermore, the most deprived children are twice as likely to be obese both at Reception and at Year 6 than the least deprived children. Obesity is a serious and growing problem for individual children and the wider population. A summary of the report’s recommendations to address the problem is as follows: n Strong controls on price promotions of unhealthy food and drink n Tougher controls on marketing and advertising of unhealthy food and drink n A centrally led reformulation programme to reduce sugar in food and drink n A sugary drinks tax on full sugar soft drinks, in order to help change behaviour, with all proceeds targeted to help those children at greatest risk of obesity n Labelling of single portions of products with added sugar to show sugar content in teaspoons n Improved education and information about diet n Universal school-food standards n Greater powers for local authorities to tackle the environment leading to obesity n Early intervention to offer help to families of children affected by obesity

n Further research into the most effective interventions. Nowhere on this list is the concept of parental responsibility. There is also the more general point about how far the state should or could take on responsibility for the health of individuals. Ensuring that consumers have all the facts is one thing, actively legislating against products that consumed in moderation are pleasurable to many people and cause little harm is another. It was very noticeable that the moment the health lobby had won the battle on tobacco their firepower was turned onto the next target, sugar. Nobody could argue against the case that childhood obesity is an issue that demands action, but it does raise the issue of parental responsibility for what children put into their mouths. When we visit shops when children are coming out of school, we are often aghast at the amount of money some are spending on sugary confectionery and soft drinks. As public-spirited people, some rural retailers already restrict sales on a voluntary basis. At the RSA we take the view that the vast majority of our members are responsible adults, often with children of their own, and are keen to do the right thing for the community they serve, even if this is to their own financial detriment. The government is expected to publish its own obesity strategy early in 2016. The Health Committee Report can be found at: pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmhealth/465/465.pdf


LOCAL AUTHORITIES FACING LONG TERM BUDGET CUTS Chancellor George Osborne’s 2015 Spending Review included a predicted budget cut of 1.7% per year in real terms over the next five years for local authorities. Alongside this settlement, the government suggested that it is giving more powers and flexibility to local councils whilst protecting vital public services. Special provision was included to protect the social care budget, but the government has still handed down a difficult £4.1bn funding cut over the spending review period on top of almost £10bn in further demand-led cost pressures. “The consequences for our local communities who will suffer as a result should not be underestimated,” said Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association. “It is wrong that the services our local communities rely on will face deeper cuts than the rest of the public sector yet again.” Lord Porter continued, “Local taxpayers are being left to pick up the bill for new government policies without any additional funding. Even if councils stopped maintaining parks and closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums and leisure centres they would still not have plugged the financial black hole they face by 2020.These local services which people cherish will have to be drastically scaled back or lost altogether as councils are increasingly forced to do more with less.”

At the RSA, we very much value our relationships with local authorities. When our organisation was first set up, it was seen as a partnership between various interested parties which all shared an interest in supporting rural shops. Indeed, our very name, the Rural Shops Alliance, highlights this philosophy. Research consistently shows just how much rural communities value their local shops, which are very much centres of the community as well as places to buy things. In recent years, the budget cuts in local government have drastically reduced their ability to work with us to support rural services, despite the fact that the sums involved have been tiny by government standards. Many of the training programs for shopkeepers that we used to run in conjunction with county councils have been axed. Many of the grant schemes available have also closed, despite the fact that past experience has clearly demonstrated that relatively small grants to encourage capital investment can keep a village shop open and thriving. When we talk of billions of pounds being saved, ultimately it comes down to small sums of money at a local level. We are talking about a county council having no travel budget to allow their community services manager to attend one of our briefing meetings, a village shop closing because there is no grant to help them buy desperately needed new fittings or a shop making cuts in staffing to balance their budget because their local authority no longer provides full business rates relief. It is obviously impossible to predict how local councils will respond to the challenge of tightening budgets, it is a fair bet that all council budgets will be reviewed yet again. In particular, any discretionary spending will come under the microscope. In recent years, local councils have cut back considerably in terms of their support for rural retailers and we can only expect this trend to continue, despite the relatively small sums involved.

24 July

24 January

7 August

7 February

28 August

1st March St. Davids Day,

6th Mothers Day, 7th British Pie Week, 11th Red Nose Day

17th St Patricks Day

28 February

06 March

13 March

20 March

21 August

21 February

18 September

11 September

04 September

14 August

14 February

8th Chinese New Year, 9th Shrove Tuesday

31 July

31 January

25th Burns Night

17 July

17 January

03 July 10 July

1st January, New Years Day

03 January


10 January




17th Love British Food Fortnight

29th August Bank Holiday

5th August-21st Olympic Games, Rio

1th British grand Prix, 14th-17th British Open Golf


Promotional Calendar

16 October

30 October

2nd May Bank Holiday

8th-14th British Sandwich Week

21st FA Cup Final

1 May

8 May

15 May

7th Ramadan Begins, 10th Euro 2015

05 June

18 December

19th Father’s Day

27th-10th July Wimbledon Fortnight

19 June

26 June

25 December

11 December

12 June

25th Christmas Day, 31st New Years Eve

30th St Andrews Day

27 November

30th Spring Bank Holiday

29 May

04 December

25th Black Friday

20 November

30th Diwali, 31st Halloween, 5th November Bonfire Night

10th National Curry Week, 12th Yom Kippur

22 May

13 November

6 November

23 October

24 April

23rd St George’s Day

17 April

02 October 09 October

9th Grand National

03 April

25 September

10 April

27th Easter Sunday

27 March

RSAViews BUSINESS BANKING AT RURAL POST OFFICES? Back in March 2015 there was an announcement that there would be an agreement with the big clearing banks to minimise the impact of their branch closure programme. The intention was that the Post Office would take on a much bigger role in providing banking services, particularly in less densely populated rural areas. It is now expected that there will be an agreement announced in the new year. A key part of this is expected to be the Post Office providing far more services to small business customers. Without knowing precisely what would be involved, it is hard to comment, but if the idea is to replace smaller bank branches in rural locations, then the range of services offered clearly needs to be acceptable. Dealing with even small business customers is different from personal banking – for example, many small businesses need to pay in quite considerable sums of cash. Business banking is more complicated and requires a higher level of staff training and each transaction on average takes longer. In principle this makes a great deal of sense and is to be applauded. However, as always, the devil may well turn out to be in the detail. In particular, when there is an announcement that the Post Office has 11,500 branches, this number covers a very wide range of outlets. It includes well over 1000 outreach services, where it could literally be somebody arriving in a private car to a village hall and setting up for just a couple of hours a week. Then there is the issue of Post Office Local outlets located within commercial shops. Here the Post Office and the shop counters are side-by-side and at least in theory one member of staff handles transactions at both. The operator receives no fixed payment to cover

overheads but merely a fee for each transaction carried out. The reality is that many Post Office Locals are paying more in terms of staff hours to operate than they receive in payments from POL, the hope being that customers attracted by the Post Office will spend money buying things in the shop. The operator often subsidises the government-owned Post Office in order to “buy” additional footfall. Business customers will cost more to service and spend less in the shop. If Post Office Locals are to handle business transactions, it is absolutely vital that the payments the operators receive for providing the service not only fully cover the cost of staff hours but also a sufficient allowance to make sure those staff are fully trained. Currently, the expertise among the shop assistants expected to carry out post office transactions in PO Locals various hugely. Some are fully trained and excellent, but many lack the training and experience of Post Office work to be fully efficient. Recent surveys by the organisation Citizens Advice suggests that, for example, the advice they provide to customers on even basic postage products is often wrong. Quite simply, you cannot expect the shop assistant working, dodging between the shop counter and serving Post Office customers for a few shifts a week on national minimum wage, to be as competent at fairly

RSAViews BUSINESS BANKING AT RURAL POST OFFICES? continued... complicated business banking transactions as a bank cashier doing it all day and every day, fully trained and being paid considerably more than national minimum wage. A business banking transaction taking several minutes in a shop is going to disrupt business at both the post office and the shop counter. Already many local post

offices experience problems when the customer comes in with several parcels to post – this problem will be magnified when you get a small business owner depositing a thousand pounds or more in cash, plus 20 cheques. At the RSA, we are all in favour of anything that brings additional business and revenue to hard pressed local post office operators. We are used to seeing additional pressure being put on them without a commensurate increase in remuneration – a recent example being the need to put a QR code onto postage labels parcels, which added to the transaction time but which attracted no additional pay to cover it. It is vital that the practicalities of dealing with business banking in smaller outlets, particularly Post Office Locals, is fully understood before any deals are announced. It is particularly important that the banks pay a sensible fee for the services and that POL pass a high proportion of this to the operators so that they can afford the numbers of trained staff needed to deliver the service efficiently. This basic issue needs to be addressed to enable rural Post Offices to conduct business banking to an acceptable standard.

Carrier Bags Tesco has recently announced that their use of disposable plastic bags has declined by 78% in England in the last two months since they started charging 5p for them. This should come as no surprise, being exactly in line with the experience of other countries such as Ireland and Wales. In the meantime, the RSA has urged small retailers to voluntarily charge for these bags. Certainly all the feedback we have received from our members who have done so has been positive, with little customer resistance and a real decline in plastic bag usage. We would yet again advise smaller retailers exempt from the legislation to nevertheless charge on a voluntary basis – it really is a no-brainer!

tales of the seekers-of-directions...

Because we’re very kind By Marcus Williams, Canon Pyon Stores, Herefordshire Most shopkeepers can tell a few good tales of the seekers-of-directions. Those of you with shops on main roads will be familiar with my experiences. To start with, there is the simply bad-mannered man (it’s always a man) who stands on the threshold and shouts, “Where’s so-and-so mate?” I have learnt to reply, “These people are spending money here. I will give you directions when they have all been served.” At the same time I am thinking, “I am not your mate!” From his body-language it is quite obvious that not enough of my fellow irascibles use this reply. He never adds “please” so I prompt him - I will be doing him a favour. A fellow local shopkeeper

The author, Marcus Williams

replies with “While you’re looking round finding something to buy I will be thinking whether I know the way.” That’s a good one, better for the turnover than trying to teaching manners. But my favourites are the wacky people who are, as far as I can tell, from another place in the space-time continuum. “I’ve come from Hertford and I’m looking for Brechin.” (He was trying to get from Hereford to Brecon). Then there was the man who came in, never taking his eyes from his mobile phone. (Perhaps it was an idowser, I don’t know much about Apple devices?). “I am looking for a pub.” “Well there’s The Nags Head over the road.” “No it’s in the middle of the village.” “Well our pub is in the middle of the village.” “No it’s not this village.” He then left. Then we recently had a man looking for the Three Horseshoes. “I bought some chairs there a few years ago… I’m in the wrong Pyon aren’t I?” (We have Canon Pyon and Kings Pyon.) “No you are in the wrong Canon.” We directed him to Norton Canon, about six miles away. Quite popular is “Have you got a map?” I have learnt to just say “No” and certainly not to ask “Why?” The answer is often along the lines, “I bought something from someone out this way a few years ago and I thought if I saw the name of the village on a map I would be able to find him again.” What about “Can you tell me the way to High Wycombe?” (It’s 100 miles away, why would I know or care?) “I have been travelling

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tales of the seekers-of-directions...continued from Kingstone (about 14 miles away) for the last hour and a half….” We suggested he find a garage at which he could buy a map – but how would you rate his chances of getting there before running out of fuel? Then there was the woman who came in and asked if I knew of a church with dragons. I assumed she meant dragon gargoyles or perhaps the tombstone of an expatriate Welshman who failed to make it back to the green, green grass of home before meeting his end. “No you don’t understand.” (Well, would you?) “I mean a church with dragons for children to

find, it’s definitely off the A4110 somewhere but we’ve been up and down this road and we can’t find it.” It took me a second or two to adjust my thinking to the idea of a church with toy dragons peeping shyly from pulpit and pew in which time she had the cheek to say accusingly, “You obviously don’t know what I am talking about!” At the same time a customer standing behind her (No, of course the dragon-seeker wasn’t buying, they never are) was having no end of fun pulling faces at me behind her back. “It’s in a place called Brim-something.” “Brinsop!” said the customer in a flash of inspiration. “That’s it, Brinsop! Where’s that?” “Well you’re on the wrong road, how do you get to Brinsop, Marcus?” So it isn’t definitely off the A4110 then. I started to explain to the direction-seeker only to hear her say “Could you write it down, I’ll never remember all that?” So I wrote it down on a piece of my paper with my pen and drew her a map, all in my time, for a begrudging thanks. How frequently they tell you where they have come from. I DON’T WANT TO KNOW. Just shut up and listen to my honed, skilled directions that I have given so many times before. For many years, my brother delivered electrical appliances to customers in west London. He would go into a shop and ask the person behind the counter to name their favourite chocolate bar. Having paid for it he would push it across the counter whilst asking for directions. “That’s for you, I shan’t be offended if you put it back on the shelf and keep the money.” Mr. Perfect! But all I ask (and I expect you do too) is that they say please and thank you or, better still, “You’re very kind.” Because we are.

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My Perfect Shop ... My Perfect Shop helps retailers to stock the right products, gain access to rewards and display material from leading brands, and encourage shoppers into their store via social media. Three RSA shopkeepers are currently running the system and monitoring the results – we will report bacvk in the next edition of Rural Retailer. In the meantime, if you want to try it for yourself, then download the app for free at the App Store or Google Playstore.

Here are the download links: n iTunes: app/myperfectshop/id957194793?mt=8 n Google Play: apps/details?

Issue 32 l Winter 2015/16 l RuralRetailer 23

one village shop’s experience...

A better way to stock When the tobacco display ban came in we held off signing up to anything costly. We wanted to see what was on the market. We were very aware of the new tobacco regulations on permitted flavours, pack designs and pack sizes coming into force over the next couple of years. We took the decision to install a new automated tobacco gantry. We have over 20 staff working for us. With our traditional gantry, it was quite time consuming for staff trying to find products. With the automated gantry, all products are shown on a touch screen, so it’s really easy and quick for staff to find the right product, which the machine then dispenses. Staff are not having to search for products and so this speeds the customer’s transaction up considerably. In 2016 we will integrate this

system with our EPoS system, making it even more efficient. We foresaw that when plain packaging is introduced, finding product in a normal gantry will become even more confusing and time consuming. At that point, the advantages of an automated gantry will become even greater. The staff all love the system. They find that not only does it free up their time searching for products, but it also means that they are not turning their backs on the customer. This is obviously better from the customer service point of view but also helps security. When we installed the new gantry, we also took the decision to delist 10 packs of cigarettes and realign our range, After it is explained to them, customers understand that 10 packs are going to be phased out over the next year and that we have taken the decision to implement the change now. We’ve certainly not had any complaints about it. With tobacco stock so expensive, you have to make sure that your investment in stock is minimised! Before its installation, we submitted our sales data from our Epos system to the suppliers, Navarra, so that they could see our average daily sales and optimise the system accordingly. This was done before it was delivered, thus creating the minimum amount of disruption during installation. Our bestselling lines have 2 or 3 dispenser columns. On average it takes just 10 minutes

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By Joe Williams, Hook Norton Stores

Tobacco twice a week to check the stock levels and fill the dispenser up. Each dispensing column holds over an outer of 20 pack cigarettes. Stock is rotated automatically because you fill from the top, whilst the machine dispenses from the bottom. Whilst filling the gantry each column has its own individual internal door so the main cabinet door can be left open whilst refilling and it still complies with the display ban. The unit is a secure cabinet with restricted access for security, which is great for us, The unit has 2 drawers underneath that can hold outers and loose stock, along with cigars. The front of the unit has slat wall so that space has been used to display smokers’ ancillaries and vaping liquids. I don’t think there are any drawbacks to the system for us, it works – it is actually so much

The RSA View on Automated Tobacco Gantries We are constantly trying to advise, cajole and persuade rural shops to become more efficient. This becomes more important the more expensive staffing becomes. Sometimes improvements are not possible – often the key to it is capital investment which is not always available. However, the tobacco display ban and the dramatic changes to tobacco pack designs that are being introduced in May 2016 mean that it is well worthwhile considering a proper solution to the tobacco display issue. Particularly for retailers with a significant tobacco business, the automated gantry is something we would strongly advise looking at. Quite simply, it is the professional solution to the problems tobacco retailers will be facing in a few short months’ time when all tobacco packs look very similar indeed.

better for us than the way our gantry operated before the display ban came in!!!

To summarise: 1. Speeds up transaction times and improves customer service 2. Eliminates mistakes (bound to happen when all cigarette packs look the same) 3. Staff do not turn their back on customers – good service and more secure 4. Tobacco in the unit is very secure 5. Refilling the fixture is much easier whilst complying with regulations 6. Professional appearance – front of unit can have slats to maximise selling space 7. Units come in various sizes, to suit different ranges and levels of business. n IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION ON NAVARRA TOBACCO GANTRIES, PLEASE SEND YOUR CONTACT DETAILS TO: Issue 32 l Winter 2015/16 l RuralRetailer 25

A question we are often asked...

What prices should we In the retail industry, conventional wisdom is not always right. Very often what everybody “knows” is at best only half true. Nowhere are there more misunderstandings, smoke and mirrors and downright muddled thinking than when it comes to pricing. This is not surprising; it is clear that the mainstream supermarkets are obsessed with price. Every so often, there is a grand announcement, proclaiming how many millions of pounds one of the chains is “investing” in reducing prices, with such policies praised by the pundits writing in the financial pages of the newspapers. In fact, the results from this activity never quite seem to live up to the billing. The paradox is quite simple. Customers tell market

researchers that they want low prices (Who’d have guessed?) but actually the average customer does not know many prices and so can’t judge. Marketing managers talk about the known value items (KVIs), the lines that customers actually have a good idea of how much they cost. The reality is that the average person knows the cost of milk, bread, eggs and perhaps a few other items – the number of lines where they really know the price is very limited indeed. This is not surprising. Most people have better things to do with their time than obsess about a few pence difference in price on the items they buy. In supermarkets, whilst over 40% of sales are hard-to-compare own label lines. However, customers do have a very clear view of which shops are cheap and which shops are expensive. Their perceptions are usually pretty close to the reality. Waitrose is seen as expensive, Lidl and Aldi are seen as cheap, with Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda and Morrisons somewhere in the middle. “Price match” promotions also muddy the waters. It is important to note that being seen as expensive does not stop customers from visiting the store, as the success of Waitrose shows. Most people know that petrol forecourts are expensive but there are times when their convenience is worth paying for. So where does this leave rural stores? In general, customers do expect smaller independent outlets to be more expensive. In our experience, shops that have tried to address this perception head-on have largely failed. Shelf

26 RuralRetailer l Winter 2015/16 l Issue 32

charge in our store? edge tickets comparing prices with local supermarkets, displays of a basket of goods with direct price comparisons, listed prices on websites or in newsletters, none is particularly effective. At the same time, we have seen village shops nearly bankrupt themselves trying to price match their local supermarket. Many proprietors take the common sense view that it is very hard indeed to overcome deepseated perceptions, even if at times they are not grounded on reality. Most village shops have ceased to be grocery stores and have become convenience stores. And convenience is something that customers understand and for which they are prepared to pay a modest premium. This is not to say that some customers will not take great pleasure in complaining about prices. There are always the people who will drive 6 miles to the nearest supermarket in order to save 10p on the price of a can of baked beans. Often these customers are the most vocal and some shopkeepers place undue weight on their often loudly expressed views. They can also upset staff who may not have been trained to respond to such ill-considered comments. Our general view is that rural convenience stores should aim to show customers that they are on their side, are not exploiting them but at the same time need to make a fair return if the business is to have a long-term future. This means that prices can be higher in general than supermarkets but the premium has to be kept to an acceptable level. Their marketing efforts should be directed at emphasising their strengths – good personal service, local products, etc.

At the same time, the importance of a special offer programme should not be discounted. We remain amazed at the number of smaller village stores that do not have a promotional space and do not routinely have special offers prominently displayed. Having offers shows customers that you are trying to provide good value for money. A rural convenience store providing a pleasant shopping environment, convenient location, sensible opening hours and a good range will attract customers even if the prices are a bit higher than the supermarkets. Businesses that emphasise their strengths find that price is not something they have to be overly concerned about. A pleasant welcome from the person behind the counter, particularly if they address you by name, can be worth far more than saving a few pence.

Issue 32 l Winter 2015/16 l RuralRetailer 27

EPoS Systems – Connections between wholesaler and retailer... By Richard Holder, Reposs Most wholesalers understand the vitally important role that the EPoS plays in the management of a modern store. They have often invested in infrastructure and technology to make it easier for their retailers to place orders and download delivery information. This saves both the retailer and the wholesaler a huge amount of time and effort in dealing with orders and also makes the whole process more accurate. In the past, the effort of keeping their EPoS systems up to date with information on products has prevented some retailers from utilising some of its more advanced features. However, modern electronic links have

automated a lot of the data input and product maintenance. Price downloads on electronic delivery notes, combined with automated margin control on your EPoS system, ensures that you sell every item at the right price. This in itself can potentially save a retailer thousands. New products can be downloaded automatically so items on shelf will always scan. Downloading delivery quantities can provide full stock control without data being manually input into the system. Hundreds of retailers are already using their Reposs EPoS system to reap the benefits of linking electronically with their wholesalers.

n For information and a free demonstration please call 0845 0945 200.

COUNTERFEIT BANKNOTES... The Bank of England has issued a summary of its advice to retailers on how to spot counterfeit notes. Much of this advice is common sense and what should be normal good practice but particularly at busy times, it is very easy for staff to drop their guard. The Bank points out that a quick manual check can prevent most counterfeit notes being accepted. These checks include gauging the texture of the paper, feeling the raised print, observing the watermark and holograms and inspecting the metallic thread running through the note. The Bank of England is providing free training materials for counter staff.

n For more information, see: banknotes/Pages/retailers/default.aspx n For training materials: banknotes/Pages/educational.aspx

Issue 32 l Winter 2015/16 l RuralRetailer 29

Leader Programme...

Grants for rural businesses... One of the most common questions we are asked by rural retailers is whether there are any grants available for improvements to their stores. Unfortunately the answer has often been in the negative. Reduced budgets have inevitably meant that funding for the sector by county councils and other organisations has been severely cut back, despite its obvious community and social importance. One possible new source of funding is LEADER. This French acronym broadly translates as “liaison between drivers of rural economic development�. It is an EU programme that is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE). Funding is distributed through local action groups (LAGs). These bodies, made up of local

people from both the public and private sectors, decide which projects to fund in their local area. There are LAGs covering most of rural England. Providing rural services is one of six LEADER priorities and therefore local retailers in many cases will be eligible for support, although funding for this strand is limited. The following government site provides more information about the scheme and also includes a link to a full list of the LAGs operating in England, together with a map showing the area covered by each one. We would encourage all rural retailers to investigate this source of possible grant funding, but would advise an early application if you are interested.

n See: rural-development-programme-for-england -leader-funding

Issue 32 l Winter 2015/16 l RuralRetailer 31


The journal of the Rural Shops Alliance, with views and information on village retailers and the communities they serve

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