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On the expansion trail

Times are good in the South East – expansion and a new online programme.

Where do you go next after opening three stores in six months to take your regional chain to a total of five?

Len Glenville and his partner Mel Beard are, as you’d expect, pretty exhausted after opening a second store in Tunbridge Wells and shops in Uckfield and Worthing Broadwater to go with their Shoreham-by-Sea and Tunbridge Wells originals.

The next stage in their exercise that would outpace any army regime is to focus on getting their online presence up to speed and run a series of road shows. There’s a clue in the family name as nobody has more drive than the irrepressible Dr Marilyn Glenville and her hubby Kriss, although Len and Mel are living up to the name!

“We're working on the website this year to offer a click and collect service and we're also doing a Best Health Event Road Show with my mother where she's doing three talks in the towns where we have stores,” says Len. “We're looking into doing a talk in Worthing towards the end of the year as well.”

Opening three shops in six months earned the dynamic duo a Christmas and New Year respite but only to take a deep breath.

“It has definitely taken its toll on us and was a massive emotional and financial drain,” admits a candid Len. “So this year we are looking to consolidate, regroup and focus on the existing stores.

“We had some staff reshuffling and recruiting to do as well as some had to leave for personal reasons, but we'll hopefully be back and fully staffed up now.”

Project Uckfield

After opening a second store in Tunbridge Wells, Len and Mel walked headlong into an opportunity in Uckfield, 25 miles from their first store in Shoreham-by-Sea and 30 miles from Tunbridge Wells, where they own two stores.

The Uckfield store was previously called ‘It's Only Natural’ and had been a part of the Uckfield high street for about 30 years. The previous owner it was time to retire and had decided that when her lease was due for renewal she would be shutting the shop unless she could find a suitable replacement to pass the business on to.

As it happened, Len used to play in the shop as a child as his mother had one of her first clinics in Uckfield when she was first starting out. So he knew the store well, at least the parts he had wrecked, as boys will.

“We didn't want to see the shop disappear from the town as we felt it was part of the hub and history of Uckfield, so we met with the previous owner for a chat about continuing it,” says Len. “From the time all was agreed we didn't have long to get things ready.”

The store seemed a bit dated so the pair decided to refurbish completely from scratch. “We also wanted to make the look and feel of the store in keeping with our other stores so that customers always know what to expect when coming into one of our shops,” says Len. “Clean, vibrant, friendly, welcoming and a nice, warm atmosphere with helpful staff.”

Zero-waste as standard

There were some hiccups with the refurbishments which took about 10 days longer than expected. They had hoped for a soft opening before the grand launch day mid-October, but it didn’t happen until the actual launch day and meant working until about midnight on the day prior, with Mum and Dad together with friends and family there to help out.

“We had a great turn out, especially considering we'd only had a poster in the window letting people know about it,” says Len. The local mayor, Councillor Spike Mayhew, and Len’s mother performed the ribbon-cutting.

Pride of place is 32 zero-waste dispensers filled with pastas, lentils, grains, oats, nuts, and seeds, and over 15 liquid-based refillers for shampoos, conditioners, body washes, hand soaps, deodorants, washing liquid, laundry liquid and fabric softener.

“We found an amazing team to work in the shop, led by friendly and helpful Jenny, and a licensed herbalist to offer product and health advice.

Moving on to Worthing

Then it was on to Worthing in November while rebranding the second shop in Tunbridge Wells. The builders and carpenters went straight from Uckfield over to Worthing to begin work for an official launch at the end of November in time for the Christmas rush. Again, mayor Councillor Hazel Thorpe and consort Robin Rogers performed the opening with his mother Marilyn who must by now be wondering when her son and his partner will slow down!

“I’m always very appreciative of her support,” says Len. And so he should be (author smiles knowingly).

“Since the store opening we've had an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from customers and other local retailers who were all glad that we had opened in Worthing Broadwater and they said that it was a shop that is greatly needed in that area.

“Broadwater is a small secondary high street just outside of the main Worthing town centre so we can service all the local residents and become part of their warm community, just as we try to do with all our stores.”

Worthing Broadwater is Best Health Food Shop’s biggest store to date, slightly bigger than Uckfield, and carries the usual range of products including the zero waste section for foods and household.

“We have also been asked by a lot of our new customers if we could supply fresh produce, especially fruit and veg, so we are now looking into that.”

Back to Tunbridge Wells

Which leaves us with the second store in Tunbridge Wells, taken over and reset in parallel with Len and Mel’s determined drive on the health food needs of the South East.

“We had a call from the previous owner of the Organic Health Shop around February 2019 saying that his lease was due for renewal at the end of April and he was looking to retire, and wondered if we would like to take it over.

“We of course said yes, so then had about eight weeks to do all the paperwork and get our computer system and epos set up and ready to go for a May Day opening. The shop was fully staffed and the previous owner had done a great job over 10 years building the store and the team to the success it was. The handover was so smooth and organised thanks to his meticulous record keeping and procedures.

“It was a seamless transition but we instantly knew we wanted to refurbish and bring it more in line with the rest of our stores and our branding.”

Zero-waste refilling was a priority, but new fridges and a freezer were needed as well, while rearranging the layout to maximise space.

What next? Watch this space, if we have enough of it to tell the Glenville tale of expansion!

Best Health Food Store’s second store, the first of two in Tunbridge Wells, is the reigning Secret Shopper champion having won the Retailer of the Year award presented at the Health Food Institute annual lecture and awards last year.

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