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Williams Supermarket


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Williams Supermarket

With the end of Costcutter’s contract with Nisa just around the corner, Richard Williams, owner of Williams Supermarket in the town of Somerton, Somerset, knew something would have to change. “We only left Costcutter this January,” he says. “This was simply because they were leaving Nisa and we’ve always been very big supporters of the Nisa product range. Whilst we had a fantastic business relationship with Costcutter, we were uncertain about the deal with Palmer & Harvey (P&H). Our store is a big one and we didn’t feel the P&H deal would cater for such stores in the same way Nisa does,” he adds.

Somerton is a small town in Somerset located near to where the floods of winter 2013 struck hardest. “We’ve had the shop for 18 years,” Richard continues. “We’re in a rural setting in an historic market town which is also a Georgian conservation town - it’s beautiful. We’re approximately five miles form the Somerset levels where all the flooding was, but fortunately we weren’t affected by that as we’re on a hill.”

When Richard and his family originally bought the store, it was running as a Costcutter. “I was a chartered accountant,” he explains. “We bought the store instead of emigrating to New Zealand. My brother was in retail and he put me on to it. My family and I moved to Somerset from out of the area. We had four young children at the time.” Such wildly opposing life paths might seem at odds with each another, but Richard says retail has allowed him to follow another ambition. “We’d lived in New Zealand before and we were looking to move permanently - we’d already sold our house and were all set to move. But it didn’t work out and I was looking for something to do. I’d always fancied running my own business. My brother Michael told me this store was for sale. He was already running a business in Cornwall at the time and he heard through the grapevine that the Somerton store was on the market.”

Richard - who had no retail background - set his sights on increasing his store’s trading space. “We went in and bought it in May 1996. At that time it was only 3,000 sq.ft. but the first extension we did was just 18 months later, into a café that was adjacent to it.” Just four years passed before the shop grew again. “We did a major refurbishment between 2000 and 2001, when we acquired the freehold. So we did a huge extension and a refit which took virtually a year. The refit was done by a company called Resolute Shop Systems, who did a fantastic job. We introduced lots of extra space, mainly for fresh food, but also chilled food and a café,” Richard remembers.

The hard work definitely paid off. In the last six months Richard and his store have scooped a pair of awards. “The store is the only one we own, but we’ve just won two awards for it - the first was the Convenience Retail Large Store of the Year, and we’ve also just won a gold award from Taste of the West for being a specialist retailer in the West Country. In fact, we were the only retailers to win the gold this year,” he says, adding: “We’re pleased because this was the first time we’d entered. We thought it was a good time to do it, having just left Costcutter and when the shop is at its peak. It seemed the perfect time to enter.”

To see for yourself just how impressive the supermarket is Richard Williams suggests “We’ve got a Google tour of the shop readers can go on, so if you just Google ‘Williams Supermarket’ and go to the See Inside section on the right of the results page, you can actually take a virtual tour.”

In an interesting side note, Richard explains how his store might well have even halted the march of the multiples in his town. “Tesco tried to open in Somerton back in 2000, but at that time the council approached us and told us of the plans and said they were not in favour of it. The council asked if we would be inclined to do a big expansion, so that encouraged us to do that when we did. So in the end Tesco moved three miles away to Langport.”

However, the improvements didn’t stop there. “Another thing we’ve done recently is to spend a lot of money through Enviroglow, which is a company that comes in and looks at your energy consumption,” Richard explains. The savings will be worth the initial expense, he believes. “We spent £23,000 on upgrading our power pack, through the gas that it uses, to make it more efficient. The main thing there for us was cost - we’ll save quite a lot on our electricity bill too. But it was also to help with the environment, of course,” he adds.

The store has also been a major player when it comes to local charities. “We contribute a lot though Making A Difference Locally,” Richard says. “We’ve donated over £6,000 to four different local charities – a cricket club, two pre-schools and a local guide dog. We’re also currently raffling off a two-foot high Easter egg for the Macmillan Cancer Trust. Making A Difference Locally is a great charity and we’ve raised a lot of money through that.”

Ever the visionary, Richard concludes by explaining how he is keen to move forward with Nisa’s latest IT systems. “I don’t think we’re going to expand any more, but we’re going to consolidate what we’ve got,” he says, concluding: “We can hopefully get Nisa’s new epositive Evolution IT system up and running by early next year and really move forward.”

Store facts & figures

Williams Supermarket, Somerton

Store Location: Main road through market town

Store size: 9,500 sq.ft.

Number of staff: 34

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