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Budgens brand director bullish on early results of revamped strategy to target the Waitrose shopper

Budgens has overhauled its strategy and introduced a new concept store in a bid to take a bigger share of the convenience market and lure premium, local-loving foodies away from Waitrose and M&S.

The independent grocer has been buoyed by the early results of its brand transformation strategy, which saw it introduce a concept store redesign to a number of its stores in England. According to internal research it has proven popular with high-end customers likely to shop in Waitrose and M&S Food, now a key target market for Budgens

The revamp was sparked by the growing competition within the convenience store sector. Bucking the trend of declining sales through out of town superstores like Tesco and Asda, small local stores have seen a rise in shoppers through their doors.

Budgens, however, has not seen the uptick in sales that it might like, prompting current owner Musgrave Group to sell off the British arm of its business earlier this year.

Ahead of the sale, brand director Mike Baker told The Drum he took the opportunity to evaluate what Budgens really stood for.

“Convenience shopping is no longer confined to those ‘emergency’ items or popping out for a bottle of wine to cater for unexpected guests, it is now about offering consumers products that both fulfil a need and excite them right on their doorstep.

“Our new proposition is all about making grocery shopping more interesting whilst highlighting the Budgens difference – supporting smaller suppliers, offering local seasonal food alongside the big brands,” he said.

The concept stores brought in more fresh products as well as an onsite bakery to up the focus on “authentic, affordable, artisanal and locally-produced foods”.

Other improvements included a broader ‘Discover the Taste’ selection, free WiFi in store and a ‘Free Coffee Friday’ which offered customers a free coffee when spending £10 or more in store. The beverage offer proved particularly timely as Waitrose faced a backlash after a crackdown on its similar scheme, finding it was being abused.

“Premium retailers are usually better at providing experiences and connections which is why they are often hard to beat,” said Baker of the premium positioning.

A survey of shoppers taken before and after the relaunch of its flagship store in North London showed that attitudes towards the Budgens brand had improved across most brand metrics, with nine out of 10 shoppers saying they’ll return while the number of items purchased per visit more than doubled from five items to nine items per visit.

Overall, the retailer claims that 87 per cent would now choose Budgens because it sold more locally sourced products

The refreshed focus has also seen the retailer overhaul its brand communications to bolster its ties to the community, something Baker said it had failed to do strongly in the past.

Ita strategy now centres on the idea of 'Everyday discovery at the heart of local life'.

“[It’s] about providing posh nosh for the masses, alongside good value brands you can trust,” he said. “We work with thousands of smaller suppliers and local food heroes, seeking out the very best produce that Britain has available so we can offer a twist on the daily shop.”

A radio campaign recently launched across Smooth FM, Wave FM and Classic FM targeting the Waitrose and M&S ‘foodie’, promoting Cotswold Banger sausages and strawberries from Warren’s Farm in Somerset as well as deals on prosecco.

Budgens is also beginning to explore social media, taking its first steps into Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. “We also signed up to O2 Priority Moments earlier in the year and early results have been very positive,” said Baker.

The sale of Budgens, as well as sister brand Londis, by the Musgrave Group to food wholesales business Brooker is currently awaiting approval by the Competition and Markets Authority.

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Jennifer Faull

Jen Faull is deputy news editor at The Drum with a remit to cover the latest developments in the retail and FMCG sectors. Based in London, she has interviewed major business figures including top marketers from Mondelez, Unilever, Tesco, and Lidl.

All by Jennifer