Counter culture

06 July, 2007
Since a refit of its retail craft bakery, Clarks has seen an 8% increase in sales, partly due to its successful hot carvery sandwich trade. Helen Gregory reports
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Yorkshire-based Clarks Bakery has given its traditional shop an ultra-modern makeover to showcase its wide product range.
The shop refit, at its Victorian-era premises in the market town of Easingwold, near York, has already generated a big sales boost, particularly as a result of its new display counter.The contents of the hot carvery section - giant joints of roast beef and pork each weighing around 17lb and cooked on site - have proven an especially big draw for customers as well as a major contributor to the 8% rise in sales since the refit of the retail craft bakery and coffee shop."They're just going crazy for it," says Nick Clark, fourth generation co-owner of the family business with his sister Hilary.Slices of the hot meat joints are served mainly on rolls, with customers able to select from four sizes: small, medium, large and extra large. On most days, customers eat their way through two huge joints of roast beef and one of pork.Also on display are pies, quiches, fruit pies, dairy products, fresh cream cakes, traditional Yorkshire cakes, fancy cakes, currant squares, date squares, scones, cookies, hot pies, and a large assortment of refrigerated sandwich fillings.Clarks used professional shopfitters Dollar Rae to help modernise the shop and, during the eight-month project, it worked to update everything, including the lighting, wall coverings, flooring, counter, refrigeration, tables and chairs.reputation for high standardsClark says Dollar Rae has an excellent reputation and, after a preliminary consultation, Clarks made the decision that it wanted what the company had to offer. "I've known about it through leaflets and brochures and heard about its reputation for high standards of interior design, shopfitting and food presentation," he says. "I think the quality and presentation here are second to none."He decided the refit was needed in order to update and refresh the shop and to reinforce its standing in the area as the quality baker and confectioner. "The shop has never had any attention and has not been changed for a number of years. It was looking very tired and in need of a refit," he says. "We were looking to the future and decided to invest in our shop."all-in-one panoramic counterClark admits that it was tough to continue trading while the work was being carried out, but adds that it was a very professional job.The disjointed feel created by the old individual counters in the shop was abandoned in favour of the installation of a single, 5m-long counter from Dollar Rae's own Panoramic range. It incorporates chilled, hot and ambient displays, and is really the centrepiece of the overall design. The traditional-style counter includes three different sections: ambient, gastronorm and hot.The revamp also introduced a new wall gantry display, new cream patterned tile flooring and specialist lighting, a free-standing light oak corner unit that surrounds a refrigerated drinks cabinet and also displays packets of crisps and baked goods, and an expansion of the coffee shop, which is equipped with five tables and chairs.Clark admits that although the original budget was £60,000, the actual spend went up to £83,000. However, he's evidently not worried as sales have increased significantly since the refit, he reports. It's worked so well that Clarks plans to look at refitting its other outlets in the near future."The Dollar Rae equipment makes your stuff look a million dollars," says Clark. "I'm really chuffed with the way things are going. Sales of our bread, for which we are well known, are strong but pretty constant. Our hot carvery, sandwich, takeaway and hot pies trade is booming. The meats look really good in the new counter with the lighting. Customers' jaws are dropping." n ----=== Clarks' history ===Clarks has been in Easingwold since 1925, first as a bakery then expanding to a café and tea shop. Nick Clark's great-grandmother started off selling scones through a window to road repairmen. The 17th-century building she lived in is now the central bakery. She ran the business on her own, passing it down to the next generation. The grandfather went out on a bike and sold insurance to make ends meet. Nick Clark's father Gerald expanded the business. Nick, 36, trained at Thomas Danby College and took over the family firm five years ago, after working for his father from a young age. His sister joined the business 10 years ago.After eight decades, Clarks' business and marketing approach has changed to being a takeaway specialist as well as a master baker. Clark says that when he joined the business, he decided to start from the bakery. "The recipes were just on bits of paper all over the shop. I've gone through the whole lot, put systems in place and got everything working properly."Vital statisticsBrand: ClarksNumber of outlets: Two shops with two cafés and a substantial wholesale businessHead office: Easingwold, 13 miles north of YorkAnnual turnover: £600,000Customer profile: A wide range of peopleBest sellers: Hot beef and hot pork sandwiches, a variety of confectionery items and various breadsCompetitorsLimited competition. Main rival: Thomas the Bakers



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