Whittemores - Josh, Sue, Kelsie, Richard, Jack

Top 50 Indie Elite Garages is trialling a Morrisons convenience format as it opens its first non-fuel convenience store - partly in consideration of the transition to electric cars.

The family-owned forecourt operator owns nine petrol stations in the UK with Spar stores attached.

The new 4,300sq ft Morrisons daily store opened in Shaftesbury, Dorset, earlier this month on a supermarket site that was closed for four years. Richard Whittemore, Elite Garage’s managing director, said: “Previously, the entire 15,854 sq foot building was a supermarket.

“New competition came into the area and it had to close down because it just wasn’t viable anymore. It has remained vacant ever since its closure in 2017.”

“It previously operated as a Somerfield, a Budgens, a Co-op, a Gateway. Since purchasing the site on an online auction in 2021, the whole team has worked so hard to develop the site. We have converted the building into a multi-use site, which now includes our 4,300 sq ft supermarket, an Elite Garages MOT centre and a 1,000 sq ft retail unit to let on the ground floor, as well as five residential flats on the first floor. Our customers will be able to use the supermarket while they wait for their vehicle to have its MOT or repairs.

”The Shafesbury site is the largest convenience store in our group, and is also the largest Morrisons Daily site to date,” Richard added.

The MOT centre is due to open on February 7.

Kelsie Whittemore, who represents the third generation in the family business, explains that the venture into stand-alone convenience was partly because of how they see the future with cars going electric, and wanting to venture into other areas.

“We’re aware that a lot of cars are going electric, but we’re still continuing to develop our nine petrol stations. The new store is definitely a learning experience and we will look at the possibility of opening more convenience stores in the future.”

Kelsie says Spar works well with the forecourts, but they wanted to try something new for their first stand-alone convenience venture.

“We chose Morrisons because it’s a very strong brand that everyone knows and their own-brand labels cater for all tastes and budget requirements, from the entry point ranges such as ‘Savers’, through to the premium brand, ‘The Best’. Morrisons has a great range of products and produces a large proportion of their own products in Britain.”

“We also like the flexibility of being a Morrisons Daily franchise. We are able to offer a range of local products, which is really important for the area we are in. We did a survey about seven months ago, asking what local residents wanted from the store. We received over 600 responses, with hundreds of locals expressing a desire for local products and suggesting which local brands they would like in the store. Providing local products was central to serving the community.”

Serving the community is something Ian Watmore, Elite Garages Operations Manager, said is important to Elite Garages: “The local residents are thrilled to have a convenience store back in this prominent building. We’ve received lots of positive feedback already, and lots of comments about how friendly and welcoming the team are.”

Ian said, “We definitely have a community feel in the store, and our customers really appreciate the local products available. Our local suppliers include Gritchie Beer, Lilley’s Cider, Moores Biscuits, Honeybuns Cakes, Dorset Blue Vinny Cheese and more. We’re predicting that these products will also be very popular with tourists in summer, as people often like buying things local to where they’ve visited.”

“If the local products concept continues to succeed, we will definitely consider selling some of those lines in our forecourt stores too.”

1 External Morrisons Daily Shaftesbury