Local heroes

After winning the Business in the Community Small Company of the Year in 2011, supermarket Maloney’s Budgens, run by brothers Vince and Dennis Maloney, has continued to grow its business by practically tackling issues facing customers, using their stores’ financial and human resources.

After acquiring three Budgens stores in 2009, brothers Vince and Dennis Maloney had a blank slate from which to build their company’s future. Having worked with Budgens from 1998, latterly as Sales Director, Vince states: “The Musgrave group bought the Budgens business in 2004 and in 2006 began to sell the stores off to independent retailers. I decided this was an excellent opportunity, and asked my brother to get on board.”

Dennis was living in Ireland, working for SuperValu, which is also part of the Musgrave group, a large food wholesaler and grocery distributor. “We have both worked in retail since we were 16-years-old,” adds Vince. “I told him about my plan and he jumped at it. We had talked for some time about going into business together, and had our own view of how we’d run stores, so this was the moment to make it a reality.”

Early challenges

In 2006, the brothers opened the doors to their first Maloney’s Budgens store, in Ascot, taking another in Shepperton in 2007 and one in Wentworth in 2008. “What sold it to me is that the stores are very much based in communities,” explains Vince. “There has been a Budgens store in Ascot for over 100 years. Our mission was to be the best local community food store, offering the finest fresh foods, value for money and excellent customer service.”

Although the potential for achieving these aims was significant, 2008 did not offer the best economic environment in which to grow a new proposition. “To be frank, when the recession hit, sales were hard to get. A Tesco and a Waitrose opened up close to us and attrition was certainly an issue – we lost 35% of our business in 2009. We’ve now managed to build back up to previous levels.”

The heart of the community

The way Vince and Dennis have achieved this is to very successfully differentiate Maloney’s Budgens from its competitors by integrating meaningfully into the communities where the stores are situated. This was in part a conscious decision, based on potential benefit to the bottom line, but has also grown organically from the brothers’ personal priorities.

Because Maloney’s Budgens is not a corporate business, it can tailor what it does to the needs of the community far easier than a larger supermarket chain.

“Our link to the community is really the heart of what we do. Giving something back is important to us, such as our major initiative sponsoring and supplying food for local school's supper and breakfast clubs. We also hold bread weeks, donating ingredients for the children to make bread, which they then sell in store.”

Maloney’s Budgens also donates waste produce to animal sanctuaries, runs a not-for-profit home delivery service for disabled people, and conducts a huge range of fundraising activities, for local projects and also charities. The company also sponsors the annual Shepperton Village Fair, with 8,000 people in attendance.

Customer service with a difference

What they offer in store is also an ongoing consideration. “We have built ranges such as gluten-free, solely on the basis of customer request,” says Vince. “We bring in quality produce from local producers, artisan products and also keep everyday basics and competitive pricing. We provide products customers can’t get anywhere else.

“Where we win is on the personal customer service we offer. Our customers know Dennis and I, they see us in store and can talk to us about the products they want, give us feedback, and we can act upon that.

“We run the business like a family and take care of our employees. If they have a problem, we do our best to help them, whether financially or otherwise – for instance supporting them to improve their English or take driving lessons and so on. We are proud of our excellent reputation as an employer.”

The Ascot locals call their Maloney’s Budgens store ‘the brother’s store’ Vince continues: “Interestingly, I was invited to a Rotary Club dinner in 2007 and they made a point of saying they didn’t want me to change the Budgens name. I went again last year and the same people said ‘why don’t you just call the store Maloney’s?’ The perception of us has completely changed.

“It takes time to achieve this, and it does cost money in the short-term, but long-term you just can’t beat it.”

5 business lessons

  1. Do what you know: If you want to go into business, use your existing knowledge as a starting point
  2. Running your own business is very different to managing a business for someone else: It makes you a more rounded person and opens your eyes to how little you really know
  3. Find the right balance: Work with people with complementary skills to your own and have clear accountability for different business areas
  4. Keep your employees happy – they represent your company to customers:  We have a robust training and induction programme, and support our employees in a number of ways
  5. Nurture your relationships: Whether with employees, customers, or the headmistress of the local school

To find out more about Maloney's Budgens visit: www.maloneysbudgens.com

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK