Offering a broad range of fine quality culinary options is clearly paying off for the newly-expanded food hall at Shoreham’s Marks & Spencer site.
With around 80,000 shoppers visiting the Holmbush store each week, delivering something out of the ordinary has been a key priority in its corporate strategy.
As the store received a multi-million pound investment across its range of departments last year, sales have reportedly increased by two per cent for its food hall.
The department’s manager, Gary Fiztharris, welcomes its expanded facilities which be believes have had a positive impact on its fortunes against a tough economic backdrop.
This has seen significant concerns expressed over the health of our high streets, with major chains including Past Times and Little Chef proposing severe cuts to their businesses.
While affairs on the high street appear exceptionally turbulent, it appears the out-of-town location for the Shoreham Marks & Spencer store has worked in its favour, making it a destination shopping experience.
Mr Fitzharris believes its food hall has proved a major draw with customers appreciating being able to pick up a wealth of luxury items unique to the store.
He said: “We have seen some encouraging trade since the extension to the food hall. The feedback we have had has been really positive about it and people seem to love the ranges.
“We’ve had more customers since the work was done who have liked the fact we are offering some international flavours, meaning they can now do their shopping in one place.”
The hall is making steps to include produce hailing from within Sussex.
This includes dairy produce from farms in the Chichester area and sparkling wines from nearby Ditchling. The latter reportedly caught the eye of county resident Dame Vera Lynn, who was spotted picking up a bottle recently.
Intriguingly, there are more than 600 wines stocked by company and the store now has specific advisers to handle drinks-related enquiries and offer advice on the most appropriate tipple to customers.
Some of its present big sellers are wines from the new world and special offers on champagne in the run-up to Christmas appeared to be a real winner. There are also dedicated wines of the month which have proved a popular feature.
“This is a destination store and people come here both for their core shopping and there are others who come for ‘top ups’ and see coming here as something of a treat. There are also some who come to buy in bulk and are drawn to us as we offer something that’s unique,” said Mr Fitzharris.
“I believe the food hall is now much more customer friendly with wider aisles and we feel it’s been a success.”
He said one particular area of growth had been in its in-store bakery, which stocks a wealth of produce from French boule to San Francisco-style bakes.
Beyond its range of fresh produce, for those on the go there’s a good selection of quality ready meals, with particular high demand for its new “fuller longer” range, which has been boosted by national advertising campaigns.
Elsewhere, some of its stand-out produce can be found in its “flavours-of-the-world section” with delicacies such as Swedish crispbread, Italian chocolates and a host of spices among the more unusual items available.
Another area in which the store has been recording considerable success is its expanded café area, which can now seat a total of 220 people within its pleasingly-uncluttered design. For the summer months there’s also a new terrace area.
Training coach Fern Sweetman shared her manager’s enthusiasm for the store’s revamp.
She said: “I love it here – there a lot of challenges with all the customers we have coming in, but there’s a sense of community here as you get to know people who come in.”
Store manager Steve James said the overall expansion of the store also included additional ranges of furniture, clothing and homeware.
He added: “We’re thrilled with our bigger and better store and are pleased that we can provide customers with an even better M&S shopping experience here in Shoreham.”