Jerry Tweney spent 10 years working for Guy Warner at the award-winning Warner’s Budgens stores in the Cotswolds. A year ago he decided to go it alone and he took on his own Budgens, Prestbury Village Stores, which has been a runaway success since it opened
Why did you decide to take on the store?
The high street here has changed a lot and the unit (which was already operating as a convenience store) had suffered a bit when the bank closed its doors in 2011. Apparently footfall dropped by 25% overnight.
But I could see that the high street is still very active, particularly with people visiting the local butcher, which recently won an award for Butcher of the Year. There is also a crowd of people who use the local post office, and I think there is a renewed interest in shopping on the high street and in supporting local businesses. When I worked for Warner’s Budgens we had a big focus on local and fresh produce and this is something I felt could be replicated well in this location.
We are 400% up compared to a year ago, before I took on the store. Customer numbers have doubled too.
How have sales been since you took over?
Our focus on fresh and local has been very popular and sales for the past few months in particular have been great. We went into the local asparagus season early this year and then, when it ended, we went straight into strawberries. Stocking these things and highlighting the fact we have them helps give people a reason to visit, and then they often buy other things when they are in.
It is an older population here and they are not worried about the price but more about where it’s come from.
I have added 16 lines of Tracklements pickles, for example, whereas the Waitrose in Cheltenham has just two lines. We have also added Paxton & Whitfield cheese, which has a Royal Warrant and isn’t in many shops, so people are amazed to find it in here. Really it has been about using the supplier contacts I have picked up over the years and then using that advantage to good effect.
What sells well in BWS?
We have a big bay dedicated to local ales and craft beers and ciders. We stock beers from breweries in Cheltenham, such as Battledown, and cider from local producers such as Pearson’s and Hogan’s. Mixed in with this are brands such as Old Mout and Bulmers. This has worked really well.
On a Saturday at least 25% of what people buy is BWS, especially craft beers.
This month has been fantastic and you couldn’t ask for anything more with the weather and the World Cup at the same time, and now Wimbledon season too. We currently have Pimm’s in the window on promotion, and lemonade alongside. We have four big windows, so we also have a big barbecue display on at the moment.
Rosé is selling well – we have recently added a new French Provence rosé. Sales for rosé are not driven by price – in fact, very little is driven by promotion. People are very brand driven here and we have customers who will buy certain brands of wine whether they are on promotion or not. We always have a Prosecco on offer and we have offers across other wines.
We don’t want to be seen as being really out to lunch with our pricing strategy and we have the backing of Booker, so we are quite healthy on margins.
Who are your nearest competitors?
The nearest stores are a Premier and a Londis, each about 600 yards away, but the Londis is in a garage and Premier is tiny, probably no more than 600sq ft. Neither of these has an extensive range of fresh foods. There is also a large Sainsbury’s fairly nearby and a bit further out there is an M&S Food and a Simply Fresh store, and these are both very popular.
We have about 4,000 residents within three quarters of a mile of the shop, and it’s a pretty affluent area. The shop is a 400-year-old building and the pub opposite is even older.
What are your plans for the future?
We are in talks to take on the post office. Ideally it would be best if this could wait a year as we have so much organic growth to cope with at the moment, but it looks like it would work well with our business and it would bring in some added footfall.
I would like to add more premium wines and I have been speaking with Laithwaites because I would like to do some more wines in the £25-£30 bracket.
We are planning a new layout for the store as we now have a full year of sales data to help us see what is selling well and what isn’t. For example, I would also like another bay for craft beer and ales. We have professionals coming in between 5pm and 8pm and I can see them reading the beer labels. I am sure they would welcome even more choice, especially as the three-for-£5 mechanic has been popular.
I would like to take on a second store and I am looking at areas such as Worcester and Malvern, but I haven’t found the right unit that would enable us to recreate what we have here.