Montego’s Food Market, Bedford

Bringing the African and Caribbean corner shop into the 21st century

There is a vibrant African and Caribbean community in the UK. You can find businesses all over the country set up to provide products and services that can’t be found in your usual British supermarket. Now those same businesses are taking advantage of a range of tools to bring products and services to customers wherever they want to shop - in store, online or with click and collect.

A one-stop-shop for the community

Historically, many shops selling African and Caribbean products in the UK have been small corner shops, serving local neighbourhoods. Square Seller Darren Richards wanted to build on this tradition and bring products to a wider audience throughout the UK and Europe. So Montego’s Food Market was born - a business specialising in African and Caribbean products, with a shop in the heart of Bedford and a significant and growing online business too.

With an in-house butchery, health and beauty section and a wide range of fresh produce, Montego’s Food Market goes beyond the offering of a traditional shop. “It’s just basically a one stop shop for all African and Caribbean products.” says Darren.

“There are a lot of our favourite products like goat meat, which is used for very traditional Caribbean dishes like curry goat. We also sell fish, we’ve got a lot of fresh produce and sell a lot of yams, a lot of plantains, a lot of really exotic kinds of produce. We actually get Caribbean plantains. They’re a little bit different from your normal plantain - a lot prettier and a lot more refined.” With such a wide range of products on offer, keeping track of inventory is a key task for Darren and his team, but Square for Retail Plus takes the hard work of inventory management so he always knows what’s in stock, where.

Building a hub in Bedford

Bedford is a very diverse, multicultural town, with one of the biggest and oldest Italian communities in the UK outside London, as well as the biggest Kenyan population in the whole country. Importantly for Montego’s Food Market, there’s also a strong Caribbean community in the town which means that instead of a small corner shop, the business occupies large premises in a prime high street location.

“What I wanted was to really take this into the 21st century, so we needed to grow on the high street or in the centre of town or in a city and really become that hub. And we’ve managed to do that here. The building we’re currently in used to be the RBS bank. So that’s where we are, it’s like 5000 square feet.” The shop is kitted out with a range of hardware for taking payments, including Square Reader, Square Register and Square Terminal. This means the team can be flexible about where they make a sale while maintaining a polished and professional counter that matches the vision for this updated neighbourhood staple.

Going online

Part of bringing the business into the 21st century was making sure that customers could buy their specialty products any way they want, so in June 2021, Montego’s Food Market launched their online store using Square Online.

It was a success right from the start: “In the first 4 weeks of launching our online store, we already had something like thirty five orders online.” As one of the first of their type of shop to go online in the UK, Montego’s Food Market is taking advantage of the many ways they can serve customers.

They offer next day delivery anywhere in the UK through partnerships with DHL and ParcelForce, while local customers can benefit from same day delivery as long as they are in the 20 mile delivery radius. There’s also the option to organise click and collect, so it’s really easy for customers to shop the way that suits them best.

Rewarding loyalty

It’s no surprise then that in a short time, Montego’s Food Market has built up a substantial and loyal customer base. “Our repeat base is probably about 80 percent of our customers. We still get a lot of new customers because we opened in the heart of the lockdown and people are still discovering us.”

Darren implemented a Square Loyalty programme to reward customers and keep them coming back. “Our customers love the loyalty programme that we’ve got with Square. We’ve got over 1300 customers, and a lot of them are using and loving the loyalty points system.”

More to come

With so much going in both the physical and online stores, Darren is kept busy keeping all parts of his business working together.

“I looked at various other options for the shop when we started but Square offered the best for us in terms of inventory management. The back end is all very simple and Square is very informative, especially the analytics that I can easily pull when I need them.”

So what comes next for Montego’s Food Market? “We’re taking it one step at a time, we’ve done an awful lot in a short amount of time.”

Follow Montego’s Food Market on Instagram and Facebook for a fun look at what’s happening in store including recipe inspiration and info on new products available. And if that makes you hungry, order from Montego’s range of authentic African and Caribbean ingredients and foods on their online store with delivery right to your door.