Committed Budgens retailer Jonathan James has been forced to convert his two forecourt stores in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, to Spar following public outrage at the opening of a third Budgens store in the centre of the town.
The former Somerfield store was bought by Musgrave Retail Partners GB as part of a seven-site deal from the Co-op, and was opened as a Budgens superstore – with superstore prices – on May 1.
However local residents reacted immediately to being deprived of a choice of grocery store brands and launched a campaign to boycott Budgens.
Both the BP/Budgens forecourt sites belonging to James Graven – Slade End and West Park Street – suffered as a consequence, with a loss of fuel volume and significant downturn in shop sales.
“It’s a small town,” said Jonathan. “People were quite happy with two Budgens stores, but when the third one opened, they voted with their feet and boycotted our stores.
“Though the Musgrave store does not belong to James Graven and is totally separate to our operation, the public do not see it that way… the sign above the door is Budgens.
“Against these market conditions I really had no option but to act fast. The decision was taken out of my hands. I contacted Peter Blakemore, head of Spar wholesaler AF Blakemore on May 18, and on May 26 we opened Spar stores on both sites.
“It was all about people power. I had to react to what our customers wanted. Our fuel volumes and store sales have since returned, in fact, I’m not sure if it was the weather or Spar, but last week was a record for us.
“It’s no accident James Graven has been in business for 150 years – it’s because we’ve always been able to react swiftly when we have to.”
James Graven now has three Budgens stores – two standalone superstores, and one on the Forecourt Trader of the Year award-winning forecourt at Ely – and there are no plans to convert these.
“I’m treating this an isolated case of misjudgement on the part of Musgrave,” commented Jonathan tactfully. “My relationship with the company is fine.”