Prepare to be surprised if you ever get the chance to visit (and I would definitely recommend it) the Guild Foods Market in the centre of Guildford, Surrey. Owned by Mayank Shah of MND Oil Co, this amazing newly developed concept store sits on a rather unassuming BP-branded filling station on a busy main road. You could easily drive past and be totally unaware of the unbelievable transformation that has taken place since last October, since when walls and ceilings have been knocked down and reconfigured to create a meandering palace of convenience and specialist food. It is the brainchild of business development manager Gary Kemp, a retail consultant with a long background in the retail and convenience business, including Spar and Nisa. His services were called upon by Mayank a couple of years ago.
"We’ve been trading 25 years at this site," said Mayank. "Less than 20% of the customers want fuel we do 1,400 transactions in the shop every day, but only 200 for fuel. I wanted to do something different and am very pleased with what we’ve created." Initially the site had a 300sq ft store with one till, but developments over the years have included expansion to a 1,500sq ft Nisa store; and buying a former tyre repair building at the back of the property. The new store now stands at 4,000sq ft in total, with customers walking through different zones, divided in one part by an impressive leafy arch and glass-roofed atrium featuring high-spec washrooms; and another by an 18-inch brick wall which adds to the ambience when walking into an impressive alcohol offer ’The Cellar’ with glass cabinets full of upmarket wines and champagnes. The store bristles with innovation with its standalone vape store, serve-over food and coffee counter, health food zone, zero waste refill station, as well as a host of locally supplied products such as meat from a sought-after butcher, fresh fish, cheese and upmarket flowers.
"We are surrounded by chimney pots, but have also set the store with generation Z in mind as we have a lot of affluent students in the town. We did a lot of research, and had a lot of discussions with all the major brands, but we decided to do it all ourselves and keep it in-house, creating our own brands and branded areas," explained Gary. "I came up with a plan, we took it to a project design house, who were able to do a virtual reality version so we could see how it would look and feel before we spent any money. All through the journey, even though at times we’ve been squeezed into a tiny space, we’ve stayed open from 6am to midnight, and our customers have stayed loyal."