Shop local - Budgens
PUBLISHED: 14:19 21 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:14 20 February 2013
Supermarkets are bad news for small towns, right? Not if that supermarket is Warner's Budgens, as renowned for its genuine commitment to community projects as it is for its good value, good quality produce.
Another way of showcasing local produce has been the biannual Seasonal Lunches. These are held in local restaurants or pubs in each town and diners are treated to a great value three-course meal prepared using local produce available at Warners Budgens stores. The lunches were borne out of a desire to build relationships with other businesses in town, champion local foods, and raise money for local charities. They have proved so popular that they are selling out in just three days, and the first evening supper event is due to take place this autumn. As well as being able to showcase the quality and taste of our local produce, a lot of money is being given to charity, says Guy. We really tailor it to each town and have already raised over 3,000 for the Bourton-on-the-Hill Village Hall Fund.
The strength of Guys relationship with local suppliers was very apparent at this years Moreton-in-Marsh Country Show in September. Warners Budgens were approached to be sponsors of the Food Tent to bring the focus back to local produce and to give it a fresh new look. This meant speaking to all their local suppliers and encouraging them to exhibit but it was worth the hard work. The suppliers turned up to show their wares, and Guy made sure notices were put on every table telling visitors that the produce can be bought all year round in their local Warners Budgens store. As a local store, its important to me that we sponsor local events, so I felt we had to get involved, said Guy. It was an absolute rip-roaring success. I spoke to all the suppliers afterwards and they are all keen to come again next year. It was an absolute win, win, win situation for us, them and the show.
Any exposure that Warners Budgens gets from working in the community is a welcome extra rather than a driving force behind their involvement. So many big businesses say they are working for the community but this normally means they have projects running alongside their business, says Guy. We have the community at the very heart of what we do; weve totally embraced it.
Warners Budgens commitment to the junior football clubs in the three towns is a case in point. A keen football fan himself, Guy chatted to the parents who run the clubs to see where his company could help out. Warners Budgens were soon sponsoring the end of season awards for each of the three clubs. In Bidford, this has now gone one step further with the launch of the Local Community Voucher Scheme which shoppers can actively take part in. The football club in Bidford was keen to build the relationship with us and take it further, says Guy. They urgently need new equipment so we brainstormed how best we could help out. This led to the birth of the Local Community Voucher Scheme where for every 10 shoppers spend in store, 1 goes to the football club. We hope to raise enough money to buy a new line marker for the club this year.
Such community involvement shows that there is tremendous warmth for the Warners Budgens brand which is what drives Guy and his team forward. What we get out of our community activities is a genuine bond with the mums, dads, kids and grandparents who shop with us. They see us as more than just a food store they now understand that we are a committed part of community life.
Of course, you cant just shop with someone because you appreciate their honest values: shoppers need to see real value for money too, which is why the Budgens own-brand Good Value range of produce is as important as that of the local suppliers whom Guy champions. Shoppers expect us to deliver value, says Guy and in the last 12 months we have put more money into driving down the cost of the weekly shop to help people through the economic situation. The number of customers we still have coming through the door shows that we still offer good value.
As well as keeping costs low in store, Guy has launched a free online membership called Taste Club where subscribers receive a monthly email newsletter containing seasonal recipes from local chefs, offers from local suppliers and discount vouchers for a number of other products in store. Each month theres even a free product that members can sample and leave comments about. My vision is for all our customers to sign up to Taste Club so we have a real online community, says Guy. Its our way of saying thank you for their loyalty to us but its also a way that we can listen to what customers really want from their supermarket.
Could this be the blueprint for the supermarket of the future? Lets hope so!
If you live in Broadway, Moreton-in-Marsh or Bidford-on-Avon, you cannot help but be touched by the presence of your local Warners Budgens. You may have children at the local primary schools or in the junior football teams, you might be involved with a local charity or run a local business, or you might enjoy buying and supporting local producers: if so, chances are that you will have come across Warners Budgens, the supermarket that has been quietly championing good values as well as good value, long before it became fashionable to care.
For Guy Warner, the owner of Warners Budgens, it was essential that his supermarkets became tangibly involved in community life. The unique relationship that each supermarket has with its residents highlights the strength and honesty of Guys commitment. When the first store was being planned in Broadway in 2005, Guy and his team met a number of people involved in Broadway life, from head teachers to Parish Council members to local residents to hear their views. There was such an inherent fear of a supermarket coming to town that we knew we had to be sympathetic to the residents, he says. We wanted to really become a part of the community so we met with people to get a feel for what went on in the town and how it worked and flowed.
From these discussions it became apparent to Guy that there was a lot he could do to help the local community. But, rather than just donate money in a one-off lump sum, he wanted to build relationships that could be ongoing. We decided that we would like to adopt the local primary school, St Marys, because talking to the head, there was an obvious need for input and contribution.
Working with the head teacher, using their knowledge of the food industry and embracing the help of a local bread supplier, Warners Budgens developed a week-long project for the school exploring how bread is made. This involved children making trips to the bakery, having a go at making bread for themselves, and even selling their bread in the Warners Budgens stores for charity. The project was so successful it was quickly rolled out into schools in all of the towns where Warners Budgens trades, and a project looking at how tomatoes grow is being developed for next year, along with local supplier, Haven Nurseries.
These community projects really show the warmth there is from our local suppliers, says Guy. Its a huge commitment from them as well as us the bakery has to go into shut-down mode while the children are there, the bakers give up their time to talk to them and stand back while the children get touchy-feely, playing in the dough! Our local suppliers would not do this for nothing if they had not bought into the whole three-way relationship between us, them and the community.
So passionate is Guy about supporting local suppliers, that he currently stocks around 700 local lines, and, despite the recession, hasnt seen a drop in sales of local produce at all. We are the link between local suppliers and the local community, he explains. We hold tasting sessions in store where people can actually meet the people who produced the food, so if you shop with us you are coming into contact with local food in a way that you cant in other supermarkets.