The Stokes chain of greengrocers is making a comeback after closing half its 65 stores last autumn.
Barely eight months after the radical restructuring, profits at the West Country business have soared, with sales up 25% at some stores and group turnover pushing £18m.
MD Louise Stokes-Johnson said she was already considering opening shops in new towns across the south west. "We closed 30 stores that weren't making a profit," she said. "Sales at the remaining stores have risen. Customer growth is a factor, but it's really down to an increase in spend. Shoppers like the new range, higher quality and the freshness."
Stokes is still the country's largest high street greengrocer. But after years of losing shoppers to out-of-town supermarkets, Stokes-Johnson says the stores are pulling in customers again with local, exotic and ethnic fruit and veg and by refitting stores.
"We'd always called ourselves a fresh produce discounter and competed with the supermarkets. Now we want to be known as a specialist greengrocer. Our thrust is quality first, then price, whereas it used to be the other way around.
"I also halved the buying team and got them reporting straight into me."
Stokes estimates that the product range has grown by 30%, with the addition of 40 new lines, such as Thai vegetables and dragon fruit. And lines sourced from local farmers have also proved popular. During the season, Stokes gets soft fruit, brassicas, salads and flowers delivered straight into the back of its stores.
So far, only two of the 30-strong store estate have been refitted, but the plan is to have them all upraded before the end of 2009.
The design uses natural fittings like wicker baskets, slate for product information and apple boxes as stands.
The chain has started to introduce limited grocery lines as well, including Cornish water, artisan cheeses and fruit juices.