Joining the Mace symbol group has boosted sales at Mary Forrester’s convenience store in Biggar, Scotland

How times change. Before, when people were grabbing breakfast on the road, they might have bought a packet of crisps and a Twix.

Now people want healthier options. And forecourt retailers like us need to listen to what people want and change accordingly. Otherwise our customers will just go elsewhere.

When our convenience store first opened in 1984, it was the only retailer of its kind in Biggar, South Lanarkshire. Back then, as long as our shelves were stocked with the essentials, people came back time and again. Now we have a supermarket just around the corner and another convenience store up the road. Times have changed significantly.

Forrester’s top five tips
1) Make sure the price is right it's not as easy as it sounds

2) Keep ahead of trends. If your customers want healthy snacks, give them healthy snacks

3) Leave no room on the shelf for slow sellers. Delist!

4) Make sure your shoppers know what's on offer. Use planograms

5) Keep your shop well stocked and looking attractive
After 50 years in the same family's hands, the business joined the Mace symbol group last year. The reason for this was simple our customer base was changing, so we had to change with it.

And we have. As part of a symbol group we've found we can respond more easily to the changing demands of our customers and offer shoppers a larger variety of products.

We're seeing more people coming in to do a full shop. Mums with their kids on the way home from school will pop in for some sweets and, when they see we now have large freezer and chiller sections, will pick up enough for dinner.

Since moving over to Mace, we've increased our range to include a lot more grocery, toiletries and now have a large range of fresh fruit and vegetables. Our fresh and frozen ranges have increased by about 25% and we also stock all the stuff you need for a packed lunch at a price that compares with the supermarkets.
Merchandising used to be a process of trial and error putting stuff out and seeing what worked. Now we are given advice on which products are selling well and how best to display each category. Following planograms has really helped boost sales.

Our EPoS system has also made keeping a close eye on what's selling and what's not much easier, as we can run monthly sales reports and ensure we never run out of what people want to buy.

Being on a busy travel route between Edinburgh and Glasgow, we pick up a lot of passing trade. And it is in this passing trade that we have seen one of the biggest changes in behaviour in recent years.

More and more are asking for healthier products and, as a result, over the past two years we've increased our sales of healthy snack products by 25%. We've gone from gondola ends of sweets and biscuits to displays of fruit and low-fat snacks. Fizzy drinks used to be one of our bestsellers, now it's bottled water.

However, it's not just about having good products at fair prices your customer needs to be aware that you are offering real value for money. I've found having even one price-marked product in a category draws people in and increases sales. We also stock a value range even if they don't buy from it, it shows customers that our prices are competitive. We also run regular promotions. Our three-for-£1.30 offer on Creme Eggs is very popular at the moment.

The retail industry has changed a lot in the past 26 years and our shop has changed with it. By adapting to customer demands and offering a great service, we will be here for another 26.

New in my store: Jay Gohil, Budgens, Cosford
Location: Cosford, Shropshire
Type of store: Forecourt

How often do you get new products in? All the time. We're constantly looking for new products to include in our store and through the Budgens Headstart scheme we have access to important new products. This is invaluable and enables us to be first to market.

What new products have you started stocking recently? We've started stocking the new Walkers crisps for the Red Nose Day promotion Steak and Al Pie, Jimmy Con Carne, Stephen Fry Up and Frank Roast Dinner. We also stocked a new range of sirloin steaks for a Valentine's Day promotion. The Tyrrells flavoured popcorn is new too. We found out about all these products through Budgens.

Is any one product selling particularly well? The Tyrrells popcorn is selling particularly well at the moment.

Is any product selling particularly badly? We delist slow sellers on a regular basis as part of our regular range review.

Have you delisted any products recently? We've just delisted the Cow & Gate bottled babyfood as part of a range review for the baby section. We've replaced these with pouches in line with market trends.

Are there are other products you've got your eye on? We're definitely looking to introduce more fresh foods and more hot foods and we will be developing these areas on an ongoing basis.

Business Barometer

Increasingly shoppers are said to be shopping "little and often". How have basket sizes changed of late?
Increased significantly: 4%
Increased slightly: 28%
Not changed: 42%
Decreased: 26%

How has your fresh fruit and veg range changed of late?
Increased significantly: 4%
Increased slightly: 15%
Not changed: 54%
Decreased: 11%
We don't stock such products: 16%

How has your frozen food range changed of late?
Increased significantly: 2%
Increased slightly: 16%
Not changed: 57%
Decreased: 21%
We don't stock such products: 4%

How has your healthier snacking range (cereal bars, nuts) changed of late?
Increased significantly: 6%
Increased slightly: 22%
Not changed: 54%
Decreased: 14%
We don't stock such products: 4%

Do you offer a delivered goods service?
Yes it's a valuable selling point: 19%
Yes but only to specific customers: 16%
No but I'd be interested in setting one up: 6%
No chance! It's not suitable for my shop: 59%

Property of the week: Convenience Store & Post Office, Felpham, West Sussex
The leasehold for Summerley Post Office & Stores in the village of Felpham, near Bognor Regis in West Sussex, is on the market with an asking price of £190,000.

A thriving business with a sales area of 1,200 sq ft, a two-position Post Office counter and frontage parking spaces immediately outside the store for six cars, the stores generates average weekly sales of £15,346, while the Post Office offers a yearly salary of £30,000.

To obtain further details about the business, which is situated in a prominent position in the village and occupies the ground floor of a two-storey building, please contact Daniel Bowyer of estate agent Christie + Co on 01962 844455.