Budgens of Upper Street, an independent supermarket, have a strong presence in the local community, and have gained real benefits from hiring local staff, including young people. Their owner, Paul Gardner, believes that having a local, dedicated workforce will be crucial in navigating the uncertain future ahead for supermarkets.

Why have Budgens opted to hire locally?

In 2008 the store switched from central ownership to becoming a franchise. At that time, there store had a high staff turnover, and staff were on shorter hours contracts, often with little dedication or sense of ownership. After buying the franchise, Paul looked to change this by hiring local people. He soon noticed a change as staff began to take more pride in the store itself as well as their own work, and staff turnover fell rapidly. ‘There was suddenly more of a community atmosphere’, comments Paul, ‘They knew each other well, and they knew the customers by name’. Staff were also far less likely to be late for work, and organised shift covering and swapping amongst themselves.

How do entry level jobs link in to this?

With a more dedicated workforce comes more opportunities for people to progress within the organisation. Paul is keen to offer young people an opportunity, as he’s very aware of the ‘experience trap’ that many fall into, where a lack of experience prevents them from getting experience. ‘If I can break that cycle and they’ve got the right attitude, then they’re likely to be here for a while’. He comments that many senior people at Budgens started by working on shop floors, and believes that his store offers an opportunity for people to gain skills and experience. He mentions one individual who started as a cleaner, and worked his way up to becoming a shift manager. The traditional model of earning trust and reward through hard work and dedication still appears to exist in the store, and Paul believes that this sets the store apart from the large chains. This, he hopes, could help the store compete in the uncertain future that lies ahead for supermarkets as buying habits change.

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It has become a little community of Budgens within the wider Islington community