Posted by: dorsetcpre | February 6, 2015

Secrets revealed behind Dorset’s Best Village Shop

In 2014 Winfrith Village Stores was chosen as Dorset’s Best Village Shop in the competition run by Dorset Community Action.  This was sponsored by the Dorset branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) who is campaigning to help save village shops. A key factor is the need for successful retailers to pass on their strategy to others struggling to survive against the giant supermarkets.

Pascal Surret, one of the partners behind Winfrith Village Stores, has written a Case Study on how they transformed the shop in less than a year, which was in need of a make over before they bought it in January 2013. He and his partner Marc had a vision revolving around three main points:

  • Delivering a variety of local, fresh and unusual produce, as well as the basics, to their community to restore the shop to a sustainable business level.
  • Promoting involvement of the local community by maintaining and creating local employment, supporting local suppliers, contributing to local charitable events and re-investing into local projects.
  • Introducing an element of fun to the shopping experience as well as the working experience for their employees, whilst maintaining high levels of approachable and caring customer service.

The response from villagers was overwhelming, helping with renovations and providing them with answers as to what they would like from the shop. They reviewed the product range, cutting back on unprofitable lines, and rethought the layout. The existing staff embraced the new technology to manage sales and stock, while introducing the other changes, so customers soon commented favourably.  They had to tackle an absence of customer data and learn how to communicate with them using modern media, such as a website and a Facebook page. They do not exclude the older generation though and publish newsletters in the Parish Magazine.

Here are some of the “before” and “after” initiatives:

Before After
Exterior and interior of shop unattractive Interior and exterior of shop renovated/painted as soon as possible so the village can see a fundamental change
Unclear product zones Products organised to appeal to the customer as they progress through the shop
Unattractive window display Create a fun and inviting window display to tempt customer through the door’s threshold
Outdated till and processes Update the  till and review all processes to ensure increased accuracy and stock control
Old habits no longer in line with business needs Review procedures to ensure the shop retains a cared-for and well stocked look.
Absence of customer communication Ensure all free media are considered and used to communicate with our customers.
Absence of rewards Engage with the community to reinvest into local charity/school project and more directly with customers through a loyalty scheme

The shop has been very successful, and monthly turnover is up over 30% since they started, with the business now sustainable. Sharon Narraway, a local villager, said: “This local village shop has helpful, friendly staff and owners who are always around to help. The range of food and drink now on offer is amazing.” Everything is well presented and they make the most of the tight space showing lots of stock. Plenty of Dorset produce, such as Capreolus bacon and Piddle beer, is prominently displayed and there is a scrumptious looking deli and bakery section. Pascal’s partner, Marc, is the book-keeper and baker, cooking up delicious quiches. There is an excellent window display, and the new one is themed around Valentine’s Day. Writer Janet Gleeson helps on this and acts as a marketing assistant, doing price comparisons and market research. She comments: “As well as supplying everyday necessities, it’s become a destination for gourmets and gossips alike. The locals love it and visitors wish they had something like it too”.

Overall the shop is fizzing with new ideas, a monthly newletter, a good website, a loyalty card and even online ordering.

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