Childerley Gate - Highland Group 2


Independent forecourt operator Highland Group has completed the refurbishment of its Childerley Gate Service Station into a ‘local shopping experience’ which includes an on-site farm shop and butchers.

The Cambridgeshire-based forecourt operator purchased the Dry Drayton site from BP eight years ago, from which it had operated a small Budgens store before signing a supply deal with Nisa in 2020. 

Childerley Gate - Highland Group 1

The company set about rejuvenating the forecourt site following the Covid pandemic, and in July 2023 reopened the store, featuring the company’s own independent fascia for the first time, with the ambition to build on a well-established reputation locally. 

The full refurbishment saw the recent introduction of a new adjoining farm shop with on-site butchers which complements the store’s range of homemade bakery goods and enhanced food-to-go proposition.

The results across the site have been beyond original expectations, according to Highland Group managing director Tom Highland, who confirmed that since taking the site over from BP store sales had risen from £9,000 a week to £85,000; and weekly fuel sales were up from 70,000 litres to 150,000 litres - “a massive jump”. 

“We’ve owned the site for about eight years and the plan was always to rebuild with a big store and new forecourt,” said Tom.

“The size and location of the site interested us straight away and there weren’t any real amenities locally which would provide competition.

“We used to have a smaller Budgens store, so we built a brand-new shop right next to the old one. This enabled us to move into the new shop while we completely gutted the old one, which we’ve recently finished and added on as a new farm shop by knocking through.”

Tom said as the store was in a very affluent area of Cambridge, it was thought the Highland Group fascia would be more appropriate for the store the company wanted to build: ”We have a good name locally and have been in the area for quite a while so we felt on this occasion it would suit trying to build our own brand. 

Childerley Gate - Highland Group - New Butchers

“We are trying to get to the point that when you see Highland Group on a store you know you are going to get a modern store offering good quality products with good customer service at a reasonable price.”

Having partnered with Nisa in 2020, Tom said the Group continues to benefit from Nisa’s extensive grocery and chilled range and established Co-op own-brand proposition.

“The biggest thing from our relationship with Nisa is the access to the Co-op range. Being with Nisa allows us access to a big range across all the categories, a trusted own-brand through Co-op and the flexibility of working with some local suppliers to allow us to be a bit more individual.

“We want to be the local convenience store with a difference. A lot of supermarket express stores tend to be very similar, but we wanted to create something unique which is customer focused and customer friendly. We decided not to go with any self-checkouts because we really value the interaction side of the business. We are a local store for local people and having that personable service is very important to us.

“People tell us what we have created isn’t a shop, it is a shopping experience. It’s almost a bit of a throwback to times when people knew their local butcher, their local grocer and recognise the locally sourced products such as the beers and ales.

“Our point of difference is that we can be more niche, and we can provide local residents with local products. We get a lot of our fruit and vegetables from local farmers and our honey and jams come from local suppliers.”   

Despite now concluding the retail refurbishment, Tom admits Highland Group continues to assess the opportunities both at existing sites and also across new opportunities.

“We are looking at a couple of other sites, but I don’t want to travel too far away from where we are now because I think you can lose track of what you are trying to do. We’ve got a business behind us called Your Car Spa which offers jet washing with basic maintenance.

“We are also applying for a café/tearoom, Indian takeaway, fish and chip shop, gents’ barbers and a beauty shack. The ambition is to make the site into a destination for high footfall and drive a thriving area for the local community.”