New prices, old values

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I was delighted to have been invited to the grand re-opening of the Jempson’s superstore in Peasmarsh last Monday following a week-long closure as this family run business entered another exiting stage of its continued development and expansion. The store was due to open to the public at 9am but our pre-opening meeting at 8:15am, hosted by Stephen Jempson, gave the group the opportunity to have a behind the scenes tour of what’s been happening over the last week.

After six years of negotiations and planning, the day had finally arrived. Stephen was remarkably calm and collected as he took us all through the history of how his family business had evolved, what the next stages were and that another major milestone was just twelve years away, Jempson’s 100 year birthday.

The new look Jempson’s interior

We enjoyed complimentary bacon rolls, croissants and refreshments as Stephen introduced us to his colleagues from Morrisons, their new partners under the ‘Together with Morrisons’ brand. Why Morrisons? It’s simple really: they share the same core values; Morrisons can offer an additional 9,000 lines to add to the existing range of artisan and local suppliers; and Morrisons’ buying power and access to mainly British produce will give Jempson’s the long awaited opportunity to reduce its prices. Morrisons owns its own fleet of trawlers which allows it to supply so much fresh fish without having to depend on third party suppliers. Their fish and chips in store are very popular and is their number one seller in their in-house cafes.

Stephen addressing the press conference

Catering for 100,000 Jempson’s customers a week takes some keeping up with, hence the need for over 400 employees across their network. Four production centres provide stock to all the stores, their Rye Bakery brand makes all their bread ‘in house’ in Peasmarsh, all their cakes are produced in Rye Harbour, ready made and chilled meals are produced in Peasmarsh and Rye caters for all the sandwiches produced.

Our tour took us all around the new look store. The clear message everywhere was ‘1,000’s prices reduced, new prices, old values’. Clear eye-catching signage lead us through the aisles with so much more choice and so many more special offers available now.

29,000 sq ft of superstore takes some filling and Jempson’s previous supplier Nisa (later bought by Co-op) simply didn’t have enough lines to fill the shelves. Something had to change in order to compete with ‘the big boys’ hence the move to Morrisons but Stephen was very clear in telling us that he had enjoyed a very long and good relationship with Nisa / Co-op. But one of the most consistent comments he received on a regular basis was that ‘his’ prices were too high (on some products) . He expects his existing mailing list of 30,000 loyalty card holders to increase and that adverse feedback regarding price will soon become a thing of the past.

One of the first customers to receive a free goody bag

Our tour took us to the bakery section and a newly installed viewing platform allows customers to see the whole process of bread-making take place before their very eyes. The smell of freshly baked bread is one we all love (if only they could bottle it, now there’s a thought, Eau de Jempson’s perhaps or just plain L’oafreal, they’re worth it!) If you want a special present you can now buy a days baking with Steve their master baker, so that’s Christmas sorted!

Looking after the finances of the UK’s biggest independent store falls at the feet of financial controller Andrew Maylaw. He told me how his part of the operation is only just starting and now that the retail side of the re-opening is in place he now needs to pay the bills and balance the books but shares the passion, belief, enthusiasm and confidence that Stephen exudes.

Financial controller, Andrew Maylam

As 9am was fast approaching we made our way back to where we started as the opening moment was not far off and what we all thought was such a lovely touch involved Penny Marriott being asked to ‘snip the ribbon’ which she did with great pride and after 45 years service she truly deserved to be rewarded with the official scissors. Without further ado the ribbon was cut and the first 150 customers were coming in, greeted by Stephen and his team who gave everyone a very generously filled goodie bag to take away as a memento of this special occasion.

As well as a long queue of eager shoppers there was a queue of cars from the pumps to the main road, not surprisingly, as both petrol and diesel were available (while stocks lasted) for just £1.359! The 300 parking spaces were nearly full and there was a very definite buzz about the place.

The same process will be rolled out through Jempson’s network of stores and there are two more stores opening this summer, in Paddock Wood and North Chailey. Pond Cottage (the property you see as you come to Jempson’s mini roundabout) will soon house their admin team on the first floor.

It’s very clear that all the staff have worked extremely hard, pulling out all the stops to meet today’s re-launch deadline. Congratulations to Stephen and all his team for achieving this in such a short space of time and with the minimum of inconvenience to us all. Fuel has been available throughout the whole process, any damaged areas of the carpark have been repaired and re-tarmacked, new signage is up and it’s business as usual.

It’s hardly surprising that Jempson’s has been shortlisted for the Grocer Gold 2023 independent retail chain of the year award, a very prestigious event to be held at the Royal Albert Hall. Congratulations to all involved in transforming our new shopping experience, for listening to your customers and for all the support Jempson’s gives to so many charitable causes.

Image Credits: Nick Forman .

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The new Jempson’s seems to be a swings and roundabouts affair. I’ve never liked the place due to the prices and some of the stock, however now there’s a change I had hoped for a change of heart. Certainly prices on some of the fresh produce has drastically fallen, and it looked appealing. That’s significant so has to be applauded. However, there was also a lot of missing produce. No mushrooms, no broccoli, no spinach, etc, which I think it unacceptable for midday on a Friday. But finally a tiny selection of organic vegetables which I applaud. There were piles of packets of prawns which had a sell-by-date for tomorrow, so that will all be wasted unsold stock. Lots of products price-wise are the same and some have gone higher. So I really do not believe the ‘1000’s of reduced prices’ signage. Seeing is believing. Maybe when the shelves are properly stocked my opinion may go a little higher. My bill was lower than usual, but that’s because I was forced to buy less than usual due to a lack of stock. Now I have to go somewhere else to stock-up. And finally, the worst of the potholes have been filled so my axel doesn’t have to be damaged any further.

  2. Give it time, I’m sure it will bed down.
    It’s great to see local independents alive and kicking, good luck to Jempsons, I wish you all the very best.

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