'We were ahead of the game' - Here's how this Edinburgh convenience store's 'nightmare' became a success story

From reaching rock bottom after a supermarket moved in next door, an Edinburgh retailer has spoken about how recent changes he made to a store that he's been running for almost forty years helped sales boom.
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Dennis Williams, 55, has been working at Premier Broadway Convenience Store in Oxgangs for 38 years.

He runs the shop with his wife Linda, 55, and 21-year-old daughter Sophie.

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The family-run business reached a critical point in 2018 when Aldi opened about 100 yards from them – customers dwindled and sales dropped.

Dennis, 55, Sophie, 21, and Linda, 55 outside Premier Broadway Convenience Store in Oxgangs picture: suppliedDennis, 55, Sophie, 21, and Linda, 55 outside Premier Broadway Convenience Store in Oxgangs picture: supplied
Dennis, 55, Sophie, 21, and Linda, 55 outside Premier Broadway Convenience Store in Oxgangs picture: supplied

But working with Charles Wilson, the then chief executive of Bookers which owns the Premier chain, the Williams’ built a new food-to-go service to set them apart from supermarkets.

Sales boomed reaching record levels and when the pandemic hit in March last year, the store, with its built-in deli, was “ahead of the game” for lockdown.

Speaking to Edinburgh Evening News, Mr Williams talks about how the "nightmare" of Aldi opening next door indirectly contributed towards the store’s own success story.

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"We’ve had something positive out of something negative,” he said.

“I know a lot of convenience stores are doing food-to-go now because of the pandemic, but we’ve been doing this for a while because of Aldi.

"It’s been great for giving us a head start in lockdown.”

Mr Williams said sales from the deli, which sells sandwiches, soup and coffee, have been up by about 300 per cent making record numbers for the store.

"We had a modest target of £200 a week when we first started food-to-go. But in the lead up to Christmas 2020 we were making more than £3,000 a week, so that gives you an idea of how well it’s done for us.

"It’s been the jewel in our crown.”

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The experienced retailer said while footfall is inevitably lower than pre-Covid times, his business continues to attract customers from all over the city because of its well-established deli.

"We have workmen who are still working during lockdown who come to the deli from about two or three miles away," he said.

"Part of what makes us popular is we make sure we serve top quality produce from our deli. You might not expect a Premier to serve fresh produce, but we have a farmer who delivers free range eggs to us for those who want their egg roll.

"We also have reasonable prices, none of that £3 for a coffee nonsense.”

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Lockdown has reduced the number of customers coming through the shop’s door but basket spending has reached record high by growing 48 per cent in recent months, according to Mr Williams.

The retailer said he's not sure what the main driver behind his surge in sales is, but he believes lockdown has brought communities together more and encouraged local spending – particularly in his deli.

“These rules, no matter how difficult they are, have helped rebuild a sense of community which has helped convenience stores,” said Mr Williams.

"When you have a store like ours you’re almost like a social worker.

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"I have elderly people who come in who have given me their pin numbers to help them get money out because we’ve built trust over all these years. We have many new customers coming in, but we are also doing our older ones proud.”

David and Linda made the news at the start of lockdown for providing food and raising funds to support those in the local area facing hardship during the pandemic.

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