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    Highland Group refurbishes Childerley Gate Service Station into ‘local shopping experience’

    Cambridgeshire forecourt operator Highland Group have refurbished their Childerley Gate Service Station into a ‘local shopping experience’ with an on-site farm shop and butchers recently launching.

    The forecourt operators purchased the Dry Drayton site eight years ago from BP and had operated a small Budgens store before signing a supply deal with Nisa in 2020.

    Following COVID, Highland Group set about rejuvenating the forecourt site and in July 2023 reopened the store to offer homemade bakery goods and an enhanced food to go proposition. Another alteration saw Highland Group debut their own independent fascia for the first time with the ambition to build on a well-established reputation locally.

    The full refurbishment completed recently saw the introduction of a brand-new adjoining farm shop with on-site butchers also now available for customers to enhance the customer proposition. The results across the site have been beyond original expectations with store sales up from £25,000 a week to £85,000 a week and fuel sales up from 70,000 litres to 150,000 litres. 

    “We’ve owned the site for about eight years and the plan was always to rebuild with a big store and new forecourt,” said Tom Highland, MD for Highland Group. “The size and location of the site interested us straight away and there weren’t any real amenities locally which would provide competition.

    “We used to have a smaller Budgens store, so we built a brand-new shop right next to the old one. This enabled us to move into the new shop whilst we completely gutted the old one which we’ve recently finished and added on as a new farm shop by knocking through.

    “When we took the site from BP, they were doing about £9,000 a week in the shop and 70,000 litres of fuel. We’re now doing £85,000 a week in the shop and 150,000 litres every week so the jump has been massive!

    Highland Group refurbishes Childerley Gate Service Station into ‘local shopping experience’

    “The store is in a very affluent area of Cambridge so we felt the Highland Group fascia would be more appropriate for the store we wanted to build. We have a good name locally and have been in the area for quite a while so we felt on this occasion it would suit trying to build our own brand.

    “We are trying to get to the point that when you see Highland Group on a store you know you are going to get a modern store offering good quality products with good customer service at a reasonable price.”

    Having partnered with Nisa in 2020, Highland Group say they continue to benefit from Nisa’s extensive grocery and chilled range and established Co-op own brand proposition.

    “The biggest thing from our relationship with Nisa is the access to the Co-op range,” added Tom. “Being with Nisa allows us access to a big range across all the categories, a trusted own brand through Co-op and the flexibility of working with some local suppliers to allow us to be a bit more individual.

    “We want to be the local convenience store with a difference. A lot of supermarket express stores tend to be very similar, but we wanted to create something unique which is customer focused and customer friendly. We decided not to go with any self-checkouts because we really value the interaction side of the business. We are a local store for local people and having that personable service is very important to us.

    Highland Group refurbishes Childerley Gate Service Station into ‘local shopping experience’

    “People tell us what we have created isn’t a shop, it is a shopping experience. It’s almost a bit of a throwback to times when people knew their local butcher, their local grocer and recognise the locally sourced products such as the beers and ales.

    “Our point of difference is that we can be more niche, and we can provide local residents with local products. We get a lot of our fruit and vegetables from local farmers and our honey, and jams come from local suppliers.”

    Despite now concluding the retail refurbishment, Tom admits Highland Group continue to assess the opportunities both at existing sites and also across new opportunities.

    “We are looking at a couple of other sites, but I don’t want to travel too far away from where we are now because I think you can lose track of what you are trying to do. We’ve got a business behind us called Your Car Spa which offers jet washing with basic maintenance.

    “We are also applying for a café/tearoom, Indian takeaway, fish and chip shop, gents’ barbers and a beauty shack. The ambition is to make the site into a destination for high footfall and drive a thriving area for the local community.”

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