It’s been a long time coming but last month was a very positive one in Woodlands Local for us, with lots of new work kicking off and an increasingly solid team starting to deliver the growth that we’ve been looking for.
by Antony Begley
For once, it’s nice not to be reporting on yet more staff problems in our little corner of Falkirk. With supervisors Kerry and Adelaide doing a great job of steadying the ship and organising the team into a much more solid unit, we have some decent grounds for optimism moving forward with many of our procedures now being put into place consistently and effectively.
We’ve also added another full-time member of the team who – touch wood – is also doing a great job and showing some real application and common sense. The result is a neater, tidier, better-stocked shop that is already beginning to show some signs of growth in terms of sales. Granted, the weather has been almost always fantastic which is definitely having an impact, but we’ll take all the good news and business-building help we can get at this stage.
Food to go
Food to go has always been a core part of our offer at Woodlands Local and in the last month we’ve implemented a new management and auditing system under the day to day control of Stacey. It has been hard work but has involved us actively tracking the number and types of filled rolls we prepare every day, combined with a much more detailed wastage list too.
Essentially, it means it’s not up to each member of staff to decide how many rolls and of what type they make up each day. We now have set numbers of each flavour, together with more strict ‘recipes’ for each roll. We have also for the first time worked out nominally how much each roll costs us to prepare, which allows us to create a product file in the Epos system for each one.
The cost element is by definition fairly loose, but is significantly better than no system at all. So, for instance, we can say to the penny how much each bread roll costs us and how much each slice of gammon costs us, but it’s much harder to cost a dollop of mayonnaise, a portion of salad, a few slices of tomato and so on. But we have given it our best go and we can now run reports in the Epos to tell us not only how many rolls we sell each day (and how many we waste at the end of each day) but also how much profit we make from each roll.
We have also implemented similar systems right across every aspect of our food to go offer. These take in hot hold products like rolls filled with bacon or sausage, as well as loose cakes, biscuits and more. The net result is the most accurate Epos reporting we’ve ever had on the category.
A big driver of this activity was a desire to ensure we always had availability of filled rolls and hot food all day long. Traditionally Woodlands Local would more or less run out of filled rolls by late afternoon, but were still occasionally being asked for them. So we took the decision to heat more hot food each day and do it more often throughout the day, as well as upping the amount of filled rolls we prepared by a factor of 25%. Yes, we are now wasting four or five filled rolls a day on average, but we are selling between 20 and 30 more every day.
We have also seen sales of hot food increase by around 12% on a daily basis, as well as modest increases in sales of confectionery, crisps and so on. Soft drinks sales have also increased significantly in the last few weeks but we’re more inclined to put that down to the weather.
All told, however, the activity has undoubtedly added to our bottom line and we intend to continue developing the category in the coming weeks and months.
We have also added some weight to our e-cigs activity by clearing a shelf on the tobacco gantry to make room for our full vaping offer right behind the till.
The tobacco gantry was not full so we could do this without reducing any lines. The intention is to make the vaping category much more visible in-store, and we’ve added a full range of ultra-value 88 Vape products at just £1 for a liquid or coil and just £6.99 for the pen.
We are already in talks with several vaping suppliers to discuss our next move to make e-cigarettes a USP of the store in a bid to steal customers from the local vape shop and from online retailers.
As part of the Scottish Newstrade Steering Group, we have also taken receipt of our tailored new newstrade FSDU where we will site the Scottish Sun, the Falkirk Herald and some impulse lines to drive up interest in the news category as well as generate a little excitement in-store. The activity is based around the Sun Savers promotion which offers shoppers a free fiver for every 28 copies of the Scottish Sun they buy.
The Woodlands Local team now have some nice new staff uniforms and we’re doing our best to encourage our shoppers to start saving for their £5 – because why wouldn’t you?
It’s taken longer than anticipated, but our first Nisa orders go in this month as we revamp our fresh, chilled and frozen ranges in the store. We will be able to report back next month on how that’s going in the first few weeks under the new supply deal via Filshill.
We’ve also been working with our candy partner Wrigley to create a special summer deals fixture to help us capitalise on the convergence of good weather, the World Cup and BBQ season.
The cross-category fixture is aimed to drive up basket spend as customers prepare for days in the garden or park or nights in front of the telly for World Cup and more.
One problem area in the last month has been a sudden and very significant uplift in theft and grief in the store. We were being targeted by a dedicated bunch of young local wasters who were very well-practiced in the arts of distraction and teamwork for the purpose of stealing alcohol. One would engage the team member behind the till in some carefully thought-out banter while a second made some noise in another corner of the shop, as a third pocketed some booze.
On several occasions the staff challenged them with some unpleasant outcomes that resulted in us calling the police on three separate evenings. I’m very sad to say that the target for their theft was a specific range of RTDs that we have since delisted because I am simply not prepared to have our staff subject to this kind of abuse and hassle on a regular basis.