Mr Thom's - Business case study

Mr Thom’s emerges from lockdown with new income streams and refurbished premises

Mr Thoms

Mr Thom’s confectionary shop and bakery in Tenbury Wells sells a range of food and drink including chocolate treats and sweets, coffee, cakes, and hot meals. The business has operated for five years becoming increasingly popular with the local community and tourists. Owner Garry Thompson established the shop after facing redundancy from his role of 25 years as a retail manager for a large supermarket chain. Garry purchased the unit in Tenbury’s centre, selling chocolate and sweets before diversifying. “I came with ambitions to take the business further and quickly expanded into selling Belgian chocolate, the first shop in Tenbury to do so,” said Gary.

Two years after opening, Mr Thom’s expanded into a neighbouring unit, a recently closed bakery, which allowed them to make and sell a wider range of produce. Latest developments include an on-site chocolate factory and garden area. Garry adds “we want to become a distinctive attraction, providing experiences like chocolate workshops, as well as an outdoor seating area for people wanting cakes and teas”. However this year has been challenging. In February 2020, Tenbury faced some of its worst flooding in years, with much of the town’s retail sector being badly damaged. Mr Thom’s was affected by damage to refrigeration units and stock losses in the basement.

“The flooding was a tough time for Tenbury, and as people were just getting back on their feet, Covid-19 came along” Garry Thompson, Owner of Mr Thom’s

Coronavirus followed shortly after, but Mr Thom’s was deemed an essential service so initially remained open. However, as customer demand for groceries soared, the shop became in-undated.“We had a surge in customers so made the decision to close due to risk for our staff, and the challenges we faced to re-supplying.”

Garry soon recognised there was latent demand for deliveries. For two days a week, Mr Thom’s delivered groceries locally, selling their own stock, and goods from bigger grocery stores at request. “At its peak, we were really busy, doing over 130 deliveries a week, serving repeat customers who tended to be more vulnerable people”.

Mr Thom’s was able to maintain almost a third of its usual weekly turnover, covering its costs. “Income from deliveries was a lifeline, and meant we weren’t losing too much money after we put staff on furlough”.

Garry invested in a delivery van to sustain the delivery service.

During lockdown Garry refurbished the shop. “We had lots of work to do to make reparations to refrigeration units after the flood, and we wanted to re-vamp the shops image”.

Using a flood grant and the Government’s COVID-19 grant for business rate relief and a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan, Garry invested in new continental fridges, developed the garden seating area, fitted a shop front awning, and rebranded.

“We are giving the shop a new look and feel, which will be timed well with driving demand as we come out of lockdown.”

Mr Thoms shop

Cakes in display

The shop has re-opened and Mr Thom’s is continuing to diversify by partnering with more local businesses and farm shops. “We haven’t used the chocolate factory to its full extent yet, so we want to build up to become more tourism focused. I also want to get our chocolate stocked in other local shops”. Garry noted Facebook and Instagram has been 'huge for us in terms of business development”. It has allowed the business to quickly market new activities whilst being responsive to changing demand and maintaining community involvement.

Mr Thom’s have sustained trade during a challenging period, using the time to diversify and refurbish the business. Despite the disruption offsetting his original growth plans, Garry has been flexible making the most of new opportunities. Garry has plans to continue to develop the shop, and wants to keep a close eye on business support opportunities available through Worcestershire County Council. “We were previously involved in the LEADER programme, which looked great, but unfortunately didn’t quite come at the right time for us so we decided to opt out. However as we look to grow the tourism and attraction side of our business, being involved in the Worcestershire business support ecosystem is a real plus for us!” Gary concluded.

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