Benson, Sands and Smith pool expertise to open brand new store in East Lothian

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L to r: Colin Smith (centre), managing director of Lothian Stores with fellow directors Graham Benson (left) and David Sands

L to r: Colin Smith (centre), managing director of Lothian Stores with fellow directors Graham Benson (left) and David Sands

Former Bellevue Cash & Carry owner Graham Benson and convenience store veterans David Sands and his father,
Lindsay Sands, have gone into business with Colin Smith, the former regional manager for Bestway Direct in Scotland , to launch a brand new convenience store in Musselburgh.
 
Pinkie Farm Convenience Store, which is being built on the site of a former farm on the outskirts of the East Lothian town, will open in May 2014. Smith, who will be responsible for managing the store and is managing director of parent company Lothian Stores, is investing in the business along with co-directors Benson, and David and Lindsay Sands. He is already seeking additional sites.
 
Trading under the Pinkie name and supplied by Nisa, the largest independent grocery buying group in the UK, the new 6000sq ft store will retain the character, heritage and values of the existing adjacent Pinkie store, established in the 1960s as a traditional farm shop by the late father of the current owner Lynn Todd who has sold the store and some of the farmland to the Pinkie directors.
 
Positioning itself very much at the heart of the local community with a strapline ‘Honest Local Value’, the store will have a particularly strong focus on fresh and chilled foods including meat from a local butcher, fresh fish and locally supplied fruit and vegetables, seasonal when possible.
 
Other features will be food-to-go lines freshly prepared in-store and based on the successful model created by industry stalwart David Sands in his former Kinross-based c-store business. An in-store bakery will be provided by Stephens, the award-winning Dunfermline-based firm while there will also be a café area.
 
“It’s a true convenience store in every sense but much bigger and with a fresh and food-to-go offer that few c-stores are able to provide because of space restrictions,” said Smith, who is currently working alongside existing store owners Lynn Todd and Billy Mackenzie and their staff to get to know customers, and understand their likes, needs and requirements.
 
“I want to ensure that longstanding customers can come to their new Pinkie store and buy everything they can at the moment,” he explained. “However, I also want them to be pleasantly surprised when they shop with us for the first time and leave Pinkie talking about the greater choice and quality of fresh produce, the new food-to-go offer, additional services and the great promotions.
 
“All the staff are moving across into the new store and are integral to keeping Pinkie known for its service and community feel. It is important for us to retain the very best of the store that has played a key role in its community for over 50 years but put our own stamp on it.”
 
Meanwhile, areas such as pet foods and plants will be developed. “We’re going to build on what is already a significant pet foods business by creating a dedicated section,” Smith confirmed. “This will give us another point of difference and customers a reason to shop at Pinkie. Plants will also feature prominently and change with the seasons – bedding plants in spring/summer, Christmas trees in December and so on.”
 
Smith also confirmed that the store intends to emulate the former David Sands business by supporting local and Scottish producers, providing customers with interesting products that aren’t widely available anywhere else locally.
 
A business graduate of Edinburgh Napier University , Smith, 38, first met Graham Benson during his student days when he embarked on a year’s placement as a marketing assistant at Bellevue in Edinburgh . Continuing to work part-time for the Benson family business, he joined the wholesaler in a full-time capacity on graduating, leaving after five years to take up the position of marketing manager at the Edinburgh branch of Costco.
 
Latterly overseeing the marketing departments of three other Costco warehouses in addition to his own depot, Smith returned to Bellevue in 2008 to head up the sales and marketing department. The sale of Bellevue in 2010 to Batleys, however, saw Smith’s role change to become regional manager for the Best-one symbol group, his new and previous experience advising independent c-store retailers how best to develop and grow their businesses fuelling a deep-rooted personal ambition to open his own store.
 
It was Smith who identified Pinkie as an ideal site for developing a new store, brokering a deal with the Todds who have also sold land to a house builder which plans to build 460 homes. “The old Pinkie store will close and our new outlet will open the next morning,” said Smith. “It will be a seamless changeover for customers with all 16 members of staff staying on and more being recruited locally.”
 
Smith confirmed that he has also been speaking to local schools about getting involved with the new store with pupils set to design wall murals as part of the opening plans. “We can only boast about being at the heart of our community if we engage with the community,” he said. “That includes schools, local groups and the police.”
 
With 920-plus ‘likes’ on Facebook and a website up and running, Pinkie Farm Convenience Store is already utilising social media to engage with customers and the local community. “We’re quite surprised at the early interest we’ve created via Facebook,” said Smith. “We’ll continue to build on this and use social media to invite feedback, promote offers, run competitions, advertise for staff and keep our neighbours up-to-date with our activities. It’s a powerful medium.”
 
Commenting on his latest business venture, Graham Benson said: “Pinkie is shaping up to be an outstanding convenience store and I’m delighted to be embarking on this new business venture with Colin Smith, who was an outstanding employee and is the figurehead of this exciting new business in East Lothian. It’s also a privilege to be working with David Sands who boasts a track record in convenience retailing that is difficult to surpass.”
 
David Sands, who sold his long-established David Sands business to The Co-operative Food for an undisclosed sum in 2012 and has already revealed plans to open a brand new store in Glenrothes, Fife in March, added: “It’s an ambitious project with an exciting, young businessman at the helm.
 
“I’m confident that Pinkie will make a big impact on the Musselburgh retail scene and set a benchmark for the future direction of the convenience store sector in Scotland . With over 400 new homes going up within walking distance, it’s a fantastic location for a convenience store. I’m delighted to be part of this business venture with Colin and also Graham Benson, a hugely experienced and driven businessman with great ideas. ”
 
The store will trade from 6am to 10pm, seven days a week, providing a comprehensive range of fresh and chilled produce, food to go, in-store bakery, frozen foods, grocery, alcohol, crisps and snacks, confectionery, soft drinks, pet foods, newspapers and magazines, lottery. It will also have an external ATM (free to use) and large car park with wider than average spaces.