It’s been a sunny few weeks in Falkirk, driving footfall and sales, which has helped boost the store as we continue to rebuild the team and put more efficient processes in place.
by Antony Begley
It’s amazing the difference a bit of sunshine makes. The last month or so has been unseasonably warm in our little corner of Falkirk and that has had a huge benefit in driving up footfall and sales, as well as putting a smile on the faces of our customers. Soft drinks and water sales have shot up, as they always do when the mercury rises, but we’ve also seen decent uplifts in our cold food-to-go offer, including salads, filled rolls and lunchtime and breakfast snacking items.
The good weather has helped put a gloss on a difficult but positive month elsewhere as we continue to rebuild the team under what is now a fairly settled management team. Our new store manager Arlene Nixon has made a great impact on the shopfloor, exactly what we were hoping she would do. It’s probably fair to say that the shopfloor is now in better shape than it has been for a long, long time.
Availability is far better right across the board, merchandising and presentation has been ratcheted up a notch or two and we’ve already reworked quite a few categories to once again delist slow movers and add in some fresh lines, as well as some lines requested by customers.
The fact that Arlene manages buying has made an impact too, as she has been far more responsive in reacting to customers’ requests for specific lines. We’ve had huge success with a range of pakora products that customers were looking for and we’ve also had some success with some new Rustlers lines that were requested.
It’s also been a good few weeks for promotions with a strong package of offers from both Filshill and Costcutter. The BOGOF on £1 Walkers bags has been undoubtedly the most successful promotion we’ve ever run – at the last count we had sold over 40 cases in the space of three weeks. Coincidentally, this same promotion is now available from Costcutter, having been available from Filshill the period before. We’re expecting more of the same over the next few weeks.
We’ve also seen a significant uplift in crisps and snacks sales over the last month since Walkers visited and helped us rework the category in-store, removing slower movers, creating a more prominent dedicated £1 bag fixture and giving more space to the lines that are selling best.
Recruiting staff has proven to be more of a challenge than expected, and in some very unusual ways. A call to the Job Centre achieved very little while an ad on our Facebook page attracted around 20 decent signs of interest.
In the end, we received around a dozen CVs and started work on the interview process… and this is where it gets interesting.
Having been chased two and three times a day by a few candidates for an interview, we set up the meetings. On the first day, we set up four interviews – and only one person turned up! This seemed frankly bizarre considering how hard the candidates had been chasing the interviews. It was then explained to me by one of our senior team that anyone on Job Seekers allowance must demonstrate to the Job Centre that they are indeed seeking a job. The best proof of that fact is an interview with a prospective employer. So when they get the interview offer, then can then show this to the Job Centre and keep claiming their allowance – but don’t attend the interview because they never had any intention of actually trying to get the job!
You live and learn in this job, I can testify to that. As a result, we only have one confirmed new start from six interviews, but we do have many more CVs to plough through as we bring in at least another two or three members of the team.
Training is clearly an issue here as, even after the new starts clock on, it typically takes us about a month to get them fully up to speed on both the legally-required and on-the-job training around using the till, PayPoint, Lottery machine and so on. That’s before we get to shelf stacking, the cleaning-up process, food preparation and so on.
While we haven’t formally started the process yet, we are working with Glasgow-based Bolt Learning to convert all our various training processes and manuals into one comprehensive online training package that new and existing staff can use in their own time to get fully up to speed or to refresh their skills.
More good news comes in the shape of the new digital screen that has been fitted by Hi Street Digital. It will help add a little colour and life to the store (as seen from the exterior), as well as hopefully drawing shoppers into Woodlands by highlighting specific products and promotions and driving sales that way.
Unfortunately, the installation process isn’t quite complete because the window vinyl which obscures the screen couldn’t be amended as hoped, so we’re having to produce an entirely new one which will be purpose-designed to leave a precise gap for the digital screen. Our good friends at News Scotland have already agreed to provide a new vinyl for us, and it should be ready in time for the next issue.
While we’re on the subject of improved presentation, the team from our gantry suppliers JTI have also been in-store to update our gantry and create a bespoke vaping shelf at eye level. The new gantry helps alert customers to the fact that we sell e-cigarettes and accessories. It also brighten up what had become a very dull part of the store.
Last but not least, our on-going trials with Wrigley and Diageo are continuing to deliver in style for us with very large uplifts in sales of virtually all of Wrigley’s gum and mint products and in Diageo’s premix £1.50 price marked spirit cans.