Wendy Vickers Colsterworth Co-operative Store Manageress
I am Wendy Vickers. I was Wendy Pridmore before I was married. I was born in Warwickshire in 1952 and moved to Lincolnshire in 1965 because of my father's employment. He came to work at British Steel on the Ironstone. I continued my education at Charles Read School at Corby Glen and then went on to do a year at Grantham College when I was sixteen. I took A-level Domestic Science and a few other subjects, and then followed a career for twenty years at a bakery called Websters in Grantham.
From the age of eighteen I iced wedding cakes and I am still doing a few now. I have done cakes for loads of brides over the years and then they come back for christening cakes and then their daughters come back for wedding cakes. You have almost got a family tree of it, to be honest. Michael English the MP married a district nurse's daughter from Burton Coggles and I did the cake for the christening which was held in the Houses of Parliament. I have done a few that have gone abroad for 15 different events, and I have done cakes from one tier to five tiers, my own daughter's cake being the five tiers of course.
In 1990, I had a change of careers because Websters was sold out to another company and basically it was stress. It seemed that if something ran smoothly they put a cog in the wheel and the work seemed to be all stress. So I thought that enough was enough and it was always friendly at the shop at Colsterworth so I just came as a general assistant at the Co-op here. I did part-time to begin with and then part-time as a deputy manager. When I was first made a manager I did nine months at Corby Glen, because they liked to move you to another store to become manager. I didn't have to apply for the job, not in those days. You probably would these days. Then I was lucky enough be as to come back to Colsterworth as the manager and I am quite happy to stay here until my retirement.
It is a very happy shop. I have a good team, they are very reliable. I appointed them though if I needed a new deputy that would be appointed by my superior in Human Resources or from the Personnel Department. The Head Office for that is in Manchester but then we are split up into groups. We probably have three or four groups under one Personnel Department. The number of assistants we can have in the shop depends on the number of hours we are allotted. You have to use them to the best of your ability and leave a little bit spare for holidays. We are given so many hours in the week and it is up to me to save a few for holidays. It doesn't always work, you can often overspend. You have to have at least two people working in the shop at all times.
Sometimes two is not enough because we get very busy. People come from quite a big catchment area, Stoke, Ponton, Skillington, Buckminster, Sewstern, Stainby, Gunby, North Witham, South Witham. And they all come by car and park outside and cause a traffic hazard. We get quite a few complaints to be quite honest. It is a pity that we haven't got a car park. It is the local people who get irritable because there is that little piece of land at the side which would be ideal for us for a car park. It has been considered but somehow the powers-to-be don't agree, which is a shame really.
Somebody is supposed to be building a house on it but they have not made any progress in ages. And they have sold the flat as well, so we couldn't build out from the shop.
Opening hours are governed by Manchester. When I first started we used to close for lunch and on Saturdays we used to close at four, and of course on Sundays we didn't open at all. Now we do eight till ten every day except on Sundays which is eight until eight. It makes for a long day. I don't do a full day regularly but take today, I have worked since a quarter past seven this morning until six o'clock tonight. It is a long day but you just get yourself geared up and crack on. You are on your feet all the time getting all the goods in and lifting them into where they've got to go. I don't just stand pretty behind the counter.
I have to do all the ordering as well. The main shop goods are on what is called Sale Base Ordering which is on the computer. Stock in this shop is all stored in the computer system so that as it is sold, it knows what to reorder. Some of the things we have to manually reorder. You obviously have to look at your order and tweek it to cover any extra requirements for promotions and what the demand is. We are governed by Manchester for most things but then we know our own local demand and have to cater for it.
When I first started it was all manual ordering in those days. Gradually the tills have changed to touch-screens, and the prices are scanned into them. The computers are linked straight to Manchester so they can basically see all what's going on by looking into the computer. So there's no way of hiding anything. Sales are all recorded as they happen on the till. If you've got a problem you ring what is known as the Help Desk. Computers are supposed to make things easier but there are still plenty of things which have to be written down and rang through and reported. A lot of the ordering is counted for but like today, I have done the main shop order the groceries, and the wine and spirits and cigarettes. You just look down the list and you do what is called a gap-check which shows you if you've got any gaps on the shelves. You go and have a look to see if you have got the stock in, and if not you order it. Sometimes you do a promotions gap-check so as to order extra in if the demand warrants it. Promotions usually last three weeks. Hallowe'en will finish tomorrow night and then we've got a great big box of display stuff to start to put up on the 1st of November. I haven't even opened it yet. We will have the amaryllis again this year, buy one get one free. We still have a couple of winter hanging baskets. The winter garden tubs have all sold. We have a much bigger variety than we used to have, much. We're like Arkwright's on TV Open all hours and sell everything!
Wine is a big seller at Colsterworth. It is amazing how much drink we get through. If someone has a party on, especially a quick one, they are going to come and stock up with us instead of having to drive all the way to Grantham. More people have a drink at home these days. The laws against drink-driving tend to stop people going to the pub. Somebody always has stay sober to drive home. We still sell a lot of cigarettes. Everybody vouches when they go up, that this will be the last packet they will buy but they are soon back for another. Cigarettes bring in a big revenue so I don't suppose the Co-operative Society will ever get round to stop selling them. They consist about a sixth of the sales of the shop, and just a bit more on the alcohol. In the sections of the shop, grocery, chilled, bread, meat and so on, alcohol and cigarettes are the two biggest sections.
We get a big call for the bread. We have just started stocking Gadsby's bread as well. it is more of a straight-from-the-bakery type of bread, and we have bakery cakes. They do fresh cream cakes as well. It takes me back to my bakery days. We are given a list from which to choose. We are a bit guarded as to what we order at first but then we start changing it about according to what we want. The British bakery is usually there before eight o'clock in the morning, Warbertons and Gadsbys about nine to ten. Now we have the Cuisine de France which comes ready-baked in the freezer and we just have to fetch it out and display it. It is on a little stand at the top end. We have a very nice Four-Counties cheese knot.
We do get a few problem customers, mainly young ones who think they should be able to buy alcohol but we have this Twenty-One rule which means that if they don't look twenty-one they must show ID. They can buy alcohol at eighteen but they have to show ID if they look younger than twenty-one. We wear badges with 21 on them. Youngsters can buy cigarettes at sixteen. If they do not have any ID on them, we have to refuse them, and then they get a bit strop not very pleasant a few of them. The rule applies to all the supermarkets as well, not just us. Sometimes we get test-purchasers from the Trading Standards Officers and from the Police. They obviously bring a young one in to test us and if you sell them something you shouldn't you have failed miserably. Our company does internal tests as well just to keep us on our toes though they do not bring anyone in to test us who are actually under eighteen, that would be against the law, but the Trading Standards people and the Police do. The young person would come in and the Police would wait outside for them to come out with the goodies in their hands, and it would go on from there, lots of paperwork and such. There is a £2000 fine, not on the company but on the person serving. So you do have to be on your toes.
We get a little bit of thieving, sometimes the younger ones as well. You get the odd one who might be alcoholic wanting to feed their habit. We don't get the big problems like they do in town, it is more like children nicking a packet of sweets. It is a shame because most of them you know. You usually know because they come in three or four of them, and they spread around the shop and take their time and you think how much longer are they going to loiter around? We've got cameras, CC TV, so we watch what is going on. The way I deal with it is usually to speak to the parents if I know them sooner than get the Police in unless it continues. Then you have to do something more to stop it. I have had to get the Police in on the odd occasions. Some weeks ago there was that time when some illegal immigrants jumped out of a lorry on the A1 and spread out all over the village. The Police came in and warned us but I don't think any of them came in the shop.
It is about six years or even longer since we had the store enlarged but we could still do with a bigger one. Certainly we could do with a bigger warehouse. Sales are a bit more than last year but without more space there is a limit as to the amount we can sell. We have our regular customers. There are quite a few that you can pinpoint the time of day when they come through the door. Gone are the days when lots of people came in to do their weekly shop, unfortunately. Those who still do are mostly of the older generation who cannot drive but we have some younger ones who can't do with the hassle of going into town. I must admit that I do most of my shopping here because it is easier for me. The staff get a discount of ten per cent which helps.
Sandra Turpie who at Woolsthorpe is my deputy or duty manager as it is known as now and I've got Sandra Addlesee, from South Witham, as a supervisor. All these are part-time, there is only me that is full-time. Robert Atter is a supervisor, Karen Pick lives in the village and she is a supervisor, Anne Hotchin has lived in the village for a number of years, she is a supervisor. Liz Clark lives at Skillington and is an assistant and so is Paula Newton who lives at Woolsthorpe and Debbie Dexter nee Crabtree. Also we have Margaret Duffin and Jenny Cooper, both from South Witham. That makes eleven including myself. They are all very reliable and pleasant and efficient. I think I am lucky when I look at the other shops; they have a large turnover of staff. In our Co-op you see the same face every time you come in! We have a rota so that people know when they will be working. At holiday times or with sickness, others will drop into the spot. Some prefer to do the evenings when dad is at home to look after the children. I don't look at myself as a boss, we are a team.
It can be quite complicated running a store like this one, but I have grown to it, moving through the ranks. There can be a few headaches. Quite obviously you have to hit the budgets, the sales budget, the wastage budget and the leakage budget. Leakage is recorded, like when you have a stock-take you've got a notional stock. That is what they expect you to have in the shop as from the last stock-taking. Everything has to be counted. We do the warehouse but a team comes and does the shop. The wastage that has been recorded daily on the computer gets taken off and then the difference between your opening stock and your purchases, minus your sales and minus your waste gives you your leakage which is known as unknown leakage if it is a minus that you cannot account for. It is best to ensure that daily waste is recorded on the computer. Otherwise you are going to get a large unknown waste which is going to count against you. We have had a couple of surpluses which is pretty good. Wastage occurs on fresh goods like vegetables that have a sell-by date. When fresh goods were sold loose, we didn't have a sell-by date. Someone comes round and collects the waste vegetables.
As for profits, we have manager's meetings about every six weeks and you get your profit and loss turnover once a month. It sets out all what your sales are after VAT because of course that doesn't count towards your profit . Your waste and leakage is another small percentage down and also your controllable costs which is like the maintenance and all that sort of thing.
Then there is the lottery. People do win sometimes, mostly £10 for the three numbers and anything from £30 to just over £100 for four numbers, depending on how many get four numbers. The winnings do not compare with what we sell. The takings for the Lottery are about £3,000 a week which is quite a lot that people are gambling on.
Any problems with the Lottery can affect your bad debt. It all comes down to what is called the bottom line, the percentage that you have budgeted for and what you have hopefully fitted into the twelve months although you can't always guarantee that because things happen like someone has been off on long-term sick. It can't be helped but it all costs the shop. It can be quite a worry really. I do take work home with me sometimes. There are not enough hours a day to be honest to get it all done. I used to make wine but I haven't had time to do that lately. I have two grandchildren now so they take up a bit of time.
I have another five and a half years to go before I retire and then we hope to go boating. We go on the narrow boats and on the Broads, sometimes just the two of us and sometimes with friends. My husband works for the RAC and often works weekends so we can't go so much now but when we are both retired it will be nice to have a little boat and go off for a month or two.
This page was last edited on Saturday 13-Jun-09 00:01:11 BST