Local retailer husband and wife team Barry and Alison Thomas, who run independent shop best-one BJ Thomas, on Grays Court road, Doncaster, have been shortlisted for the Retail Industry Awards 2019.
Entered into the ‘Most Improved Store’ category, Barry and Alison are one of four independent retailers nationwide to be shortlisted in recognition of the extraordinary improvements they have made to their business in the last year.
The Retail Industry Awards are widely regarded as ‘The Oscars’ of the grocery retail sector, which reward excellence and outstanding achievement across a range of categories. It brings the £190billion pound industry together and recognises the smaller and entrepreneurial independent retailers alongside the largest supermarket multiple groups.
Barry and Alison Thomas, owners of best-one BJ Thomas in Doncaster, said: “We are overcome to be shortlisted for these prestigious awards. Never did we think we would be recognised for our work on a national scale like this, and stand up against the large multiples. It has made all the hard work and effort that we have put in over the last year so worth it.”
As part of their entry Barry and Alison told how they took over the shop from Barry’s father, who had run it for years, when he passed away. It hadn’t been updated in any way for over 10 years and after they attended a best-one seminar run by parent company Bestway Wholesale in April 2018, they had their eyes opened to what else they could be offering their customers.
Barry and Alison continued: “When we returned from the seminar, we started discussing a store refurbishment and moved quickly to drawing up plans. We invested £35k and the work was completed with Bestway in just over two weeks; an entire store refurbishment! It was a big step for us, and a huge commitment but the response from both our shoppers, and the community as a whole, has been fantastic.”
In their award entry, Barry and Alison explained the improvements made to the shop.
A brand new, food-to-go section was introduced, offering both hot and cold food options, making the shop a popular lunch destination amongst locals. The chilled section has increased in size from 0.5m to 2.5m, and then by another 1.25m due to popularity; the alcohol has a bigger, dedicated section and so the range has been able to be extended; and the store has been fitted with new floors and ceilings throughout.
The improvements have had a significant impact on sales. The food-to-go area is up a staggering 316% since August 2018, and is still growing, chilled sales doubled almost immediately following the refurbishment and sales of chilled wine have seen a huge 600% increase.
For the first time ever, the store now offers shoppers baskets, as people have changed from buying just ‘top-up’ items to doing more of a weekly shop.
Barry and Alison continued: “The feedback and sentiments from our shoppers has been amazing. We’ve known many of them for years; that’s one of the benefits of taking over a family business. The news of our refurbishment spread naturally and they were all excited to visit and see the change. It is like a completely new shop.
“We have worked hard over the past year to help make the newly refurbished store as successful as it can be. We’ve also kept a piece of the ‘old’ shop in place; a clock that belonged to Barry’s father still hangs pride of place on the wall. It’s our way of remembering him.”
The winners of the Retail Industry Awards 2019 will be announced on Tuesday 17th September, at an awards evening in London.