Budgens' £300,000 refurbishment to give Sawbridgeworth a brighter, greener store
Michelle and Paul Gravelle want to give Budgens customers a warmer welcome by fitting out Sawbridgeworth's only supermarket with new energy-saving fridges with doors.
That's part of a £300,000 refurbishment designed to make the store a brighter, more eco-friendly place. In place of the belted tills, a huge kiosk along the back wall will serve customers, freeing up space for more product lines. In time, the plan is to make some tills self-service.
Reflecting customer demand for more quality convenience goods, Budgens will be stocking a bigger range of fresh and ready-to-go produce, bringing back the Real Pie Company and offering more freezer space to the popular COOK frozen dishes.
Lunch and snacking options will be served by Costa Express and F'real milkshake machines, as well as expanded salad and sandwich offerings. At the back of the store, there will be more fridges chilling beer, wine and spirits.
Vegetarians, vegans and fans of the free-from range will also be better served with more product lines. The Gravelles have also been sourcing more natural products, such as Lily's Kitchen petfood.
"We've been planning this for around 12 months," said Paul, who owns the store together with wife Michelle. "We want to keep the store up to date and modern."
It's the first major investment since a lesser facelift six years ago."We've tried to take on board as much customer feedback as we could," said Michelle.
Thirteen years ago the couple were both corporate employees of Budgens. The company was taken over by the Irish Musgrave group, who began selling off their stores to independent retailers. Paul and Michelle bought Sawbridgeworth then two other stores which they have since sold.
"Sawbrigeworth is a bit like home to us." said Michelle. "When we first bought the store we had three young kids and we had to learn how to do everything ourselves that previously had been done for us – from paying bills to keeping up with legislation." Paul credits Budgens' "great staff and great customers" for helping them get up to speed.
Not everyone realises that Budgens is an independent store. Paul and Michelle own the building and the land, and Budgens supplies around 70% of their stock, including the Farm Fresh, Happy Shopper and Euro Shopper brands. The remaining 30% is sourced from 70 suppliers, many of them local.
"If we were a big corporate, we wouldn't be able to do what we do," said Michelle, remembering a recent water shortage when she jumped in her car to ensure the town didn't run out of bottled water.