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Last January Musgrave Group exchanged contracts with the Co-operative Group to buy 13 retail stores (previously trading as Somerfield) to become Budgens stores. The store in Chingford is the first to subsequently be divested to independent ownership, bought by Paul and Michelle Gravelle, who already own Budgens stores in Sawston and Sawbridgeworth. Says Dan Quest, Budgens Sales Director: “It was important that the stores should be sold to the right people, who would embrace the Budgens brand essence of ‘Real Food for Today’s Communities’, and in Paul and Michelle Gravelle I have no doubt that they’ll make a success of the business and take it from strength to strength.

In a matter of weeks the Gravelles have added £10,000 a week to turnover at the 4,800 sq ft Chingford store, with weekly takings rising from £60,000 to £70,000. Say Paul and Michelle Gravelle: “We’re delighted with the results. More importantly our customers are over the moon and say that we’ve ‘brought life back into the store’, which is just the best comment that they could make.

According to the couple the store was “in pretty good shape” when they took over. In addition to installing the latest Budgens imagery they focused on getting the right range in place and on staff training, revisiting staff schedules and customer service and every member of staff completed a training course with the Gravelles. “It’s important that they know who we are and what our plans are for the store, so that we can work together to make it happen,” says Michelle.

Then, closely following the Budgens planograms, every aspect of the store was relayed, with a particular focus on fresh and frozen. Opportunities to include local and specialist suppliers were also explored, with some fantastic results. A local supplier of homemade pies was introduced and over 200 were sold in the first three days. Priors Hall, a local supplier of quality sausages and bacon, was added to the range and sales of Cook frozen meals rose 40 per cent year-on-year after a range review. When Fatherson cakes were moved to a dedicated fixture at the front of the store, sales quadrupled from £100 to over £400 a week. Other ranges were rationalised. For example, adjacencies for news, cards and books were corrected, with a spinner replacing a 1.2m bay of greeting cards and stationery added to the range. A free-to-use ATM machine was also installed.

The value message has been key to attracting new customers and keeping old ones. Says Michelle: “Somerfield was perceived as offering good value, even though they were actually more expensive than Budgens on many lines. It was therefore important for us to make a big statement from the outset about offering great value for money.” The Gravelles used a strong opening offer as a footfall driver as part of their heavy-weight marketing activity for the store. The launch offer consisted of four products at 79p each – pre-packed bananas, 2.5kg white potatoes, The One milk and Kingsmill farmhouse bread. They all appeared on impactful displays at the store entrance and were flagged up on banners and posters both inside and out. But the Gravelles didn’t stop there. They also advertised the strong deals on the backs of buses. Says Michelle: “It’s been money well spent for adverts on 20 buses for four weeks at £2,500, plus adverts on headers inside 100 buses, all featuring our four key products.” The launch campaign also included sandwich boards up and down the high street, a tease campaign in local papers telling customers that ‘something is cooking at Budgens’ and 12,500 newsletters distributed locally.

The Gravelles used the launch day to confirm their commitment to supporting the local community by inviting local schoolchildren to come and cut the ribbon, giving each of them a rucksack full of goodies to take away and some literature for the parents. Suppliers were invited to the launch to offer tastings, Cadbury’s supported with free chocolate and some 2,000 Budgens goody bags were distributed at the nearby station and outside the local schools. Adds Michelle: “As part of supporting the local community we’ve linked up with a local charity, Haven House, who was also there for the launch.”

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