Premier Eldred Drive Stores, Orpington, Kent

The Premier convenience store in Orpington, Kent, has been serving its local community for 42 years and sales more than doubled when it extended into the neighbouring unit a few years ago. Manager Anita Nye fleshes out the details:

How has the store evolved since it opened in the 1970s?

I have worked here for 34 years and when it started it was just a grocers. Six years ago we bought one of Thresher’s old off-licences, which was five shops away from us. We ran the two as separate businesses for a few years but it was a challenge because it had different opening hours and we often had to move between the two.

After that point the shop next door to the grocer’s became empty and so we knocked through and moved it all into one store. In the first week we doubled our takings – we were taking £20,000 a week for the two businesses and this went up to £40,000 when they merged.

We were able to extend the opening hours which really helped trade. It meant people could buy their groceries and alcohol until 9pm, instead of 6pm. We also had to take on more staff to cope with the increased demand.

What is your competition like in the area?

We are very lucky in that we are on a housing estate and the only competition in our parade of shops is a Martin’s newsagent, but it doesn’t really sell the same things as us.

The main high street is a mile away and Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Co-op are all there but we have the advantage of free parking here, plus it is quieter and we have good customer service, so it does mean people drive to shop with us.

We are really in the middle of a community space, and I think that is why the store has managed to survive for so many years.

We have people coming here all day because there’s a secondary school at the end of the road, a primary school and family centre opposite us and a nursery – plus another primary school – just five minutes away

How much space have you been able to give to your off-licence area?

It has a lot of space. We have a 12ft chiller, which contains all of our beers and white wines, a metre-long bay for red wines and ales and then we have multipack beers in stacks.

Last week we had our cigarette gantry removed and this enabled us to give more space behind the till to spirits and Champagne. We have also changed that section so that it has Perspex lights meaning the 3m bays of spirits and Champagne are nicely illuminated. It looks really good now.

What sells well in BWS?

We sell a lot of vodka, including Glen’s, Chekov and Russian Standard. Gin hasn’t really taken off here but we sell a lot of beer. Brands such as Stella Artois, Foster’s and Carling do well. And then in wine we sell Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc in particular.

We do some meal deals and these work well. We have moved a separate chiller cabinet to the front of the store to highlight these deals and this has really helped. You can buy two pizzas with either a bottle of Coca Cola for £5.99 or with a four- pack of Stella Artois or a bottle of wine for £6.99.

When it’s hot alcohol really flies out, especially things such as flavoured ciders and RTD cans.

There are people who like to add a touch of vodka to their Tango Ice Blast slushy too on a hot day.

Packs of beer sell really well when it’s barbecue season, so this is really our best time of year apart from Christmas, when we see good sales, particularly in spirits.

What else helps to bring customers into your store?

We aren’t able to sell hot food – we can’t get a licence for this, because there are other hot food outlets on the parade.

So we have a coffee machine and a Tango Ice Blast slushy machine. 

Three times a week we give away fruit to under-11s.

We have a customer loyalty card and we recently launched one for kids called a Snack Smart Card, where we encourage children to buy snacks that are under 100 calories in order to get a stamp on the card. If they collect enough stamps they get a small gift.

How do you maintain your links to the community?

We donate to schools for raffles and if we get given stock, such as footballs, from our cash and carry warehouses we often donate these.

We sponsor a cricket team and a local football team, and we run Macmillan coffee mnornings, raffles and other charitable events.

We know a lot of our customers. In fact some of them are now the third generation of the people who first used to come in here, which makes us feel old.

What are your plans for the future?

We just want to keep trying to keep up with trends. For example, we added a gluten-free range, and it sold well for a while, but now sales have dropped off a little as the trend has changed.

We have slimmed down our tinned section as I think people are now buying more of these things online. We just want to go with the flow of trends and what people might want to buy.

We still have the store further along the parade but now it is a party and homewares shop, which complements our convenience store well.

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