Me and My Store: Mandi Duncan

Mandi Duncan

Mandi Duncan has a Day Today store in the village of Barassie near Troon on the east shore of the Firth of Clyde in South Ayrshire, Scotland just north of Ayr. It’s an idyllic shop in an idyllic area, and Mandi is a dedicated merchandiser at the heart of the local community.

How would you describe your store?

Our store is definitely a community store and we are very involved – we know everybody, just about. The shop itself is about 1100 square feet. We’ve always been a Day Today.

What sort of trading area do you operate in?

It’s just lovely here and we’re not far from the beach in Barassie. It’s called the Scottish Riviera. Socially, it’s just a total mixed bag, from young families, businesspeople, older people, from poor people to very rich people.

How long have you been a retailer?

I was twenty-nine when I started working here. I was an insurance underwriter until I had my family. I couldn’t go back to work so I got a Saturday job in this shop, so over twenty years ago. I was here 17 years and then we bought the shop about five years ago.

What is the best and the worst thing about the job?

The best thing about it is the buzz. I love it and it’s different every single day. I never thought it was in my blood – I didn’t think that I came from a retail family. But we did a family tree back to 1700 and I found I come from wine merchants.

The worst thing is probably the lack of time for family life.

What is the biggest challenge in retailing?

Some people are quite difficult to deal with. But generally, that’s not too much of an issue here at all.The shop changed overnight with the first lockdown. We went from one day just being a normal shop, doing a few home deliveries to being a home delivery shop. I think it was 118 deliveries we did on day one of the lockdown last March. We never employed drivers before – now we have five.

Do you think retailers get the respect they deserve from the local community?

We do – we’ve got an ordering app and there’s a facility where customers can leave comments, and they leave such lovely ones. We are definitely very well supported, especially during the tough times at the beginning of the lockdown.

Do you find the suppliers’ category management plans work?

On the whole, yes they do. Obviously there have been issues everybody has had in filling their shelves, but it generally works well.

What brands or categories do you find bring more footfall into your store?

We’ve just got a new Costa Coffee machine in here and we are also getting a Tango Ice Blast. And crisps are huge here, bizarrely. I think that definitely snack foods have taken off – larger format packs for sharing, multipacks, also for soft drinks. They’ve really gone through the roof. Price-marked packs are popular too – I think people have a trust in them when the company themselves have said that’s how much it is.

How do you get up-to-date information on new products?

A variety of areas. Obviously the trade magazines, but also suppliers send emails out, sometimes way in advance, and Facebook – we are big on social media.

How much do your sales depend on seasons and weather?

Not much, here. We have another shop in Doonfoot [just south of Ayr] where it’s very seasonal – less so now than when we took over. We used to have events like the Scottish Air Show right on our doorstep, but obviously they’ve been cancelled. But actually the pandemic has increased the customers because they would rather shop locally than drive to a big supermarket. I burst into tears with emotion the first time I saw a queue outside the shop.

Do you get the support you need from the local police force?

Yes, we do have a good relationship with them. In the summertime they cycle past on their bikes! You get to know them and they’re familiar to you.

What sections of the store work best for you and which are the most challenging?

Oh, that’s a difficult one. I love doing the sweets – when you’ve got all the clipstrips hanging nice and neat … it just looks lovely! A challenging area? Probably soft drinks because they just fly out the door. People shove things around in the chillers and make them untidy-looking.

What help/advice would you like to see most from manufacturers/suppliers?

POS is always a plus. Giving us dump bins is great, clip strips – we have a very good relationship with Cadbury, we get loads from them to help with sales. We like to decorate the shop, for Valentine’s for example, so all point-of-sale stuff is great. Hallowe’en is massive here.

Do you ever have customers asking for products they have seen on TV that you know nothing about?

Oh yes. I think it depends on the relationship you have with your customers and how much you talk with them. It’s not just serving out the door  we are very community orientated so they’ll tell us what they’ve seen.

If you were to give up your store tomorrow, what would you like to do?

I would definitely spend more time with my family.