How would you describe your store?
Pleasant, with a fantastic customer clientele. We pay attention to detail. It is a 1700sq ft store with a massive convenience range. We have signed with Nisa, using the Heritage brand for chilled. This is the final chapter of our range, we had always lacked chilled. We had to buy chilled products from supermarkets and add 5p profit just so we could offer customers a chilled range. But now Nisa has come on board.
What sort of trading area do you operate in?
We are in a good location off the main road. We are four miles from the town centre and also near the M1 so there is a lot of passing trade but 75 per cent of our customers are locals. Customers come from two or three miles away as well as people on their way to work. Most of our clientele are working people, although we get some who don't work. We have a selection of expensive wines. We do cheap wines as well but round here the clientele are upper market. They know what they want and have good taste.
How long have you been a retailer?
My family has been in retail since 1984, we have had four stores over the years. We started with Go Local when they first tested the concept.
What is the best and the worst thing about the job?
The worst thing about the job is the hours. We have just had two members of staff leave which is very rare for us. They both left on good terms but it means I have to work crazy hours. This year turnover has gone up and up so something has gone right. I have other businesses – a portfolio of properties, a food distribution business. So I don't do this for the money. We are at a comfortable level so we have room for opportunities. I get a set salary and the rest goes back into the business. The store grows week by week.
Do you think retailers get the respect they deserve from the local community?
We do, definitely. We do a lot of work with charities like Cancer Research and local dogs that have been abused. If customers tell us to keep the change, the money goes to charity. At the end of the month we get a certificate from the charities to say how much we have raised. We know customers by name, we banter about football. There is a friendly atmosphere.
How do you get up to date information on new products?
I mostly get information through trade magazines like Asian Trader. Also, Go Local has a lot of offers. They always have a few new lines on offer every month. They launch new products as an offer which is good.
How much do your sales depend on seasons and weather?
We do well on seasonal sales. Last year at Halloween the store was done out like crazy. It depends how you as a retailer maximise seasons.
Do you get the support you need from the local police force?
Yes, they are fantastic. We have a great relationship with them, a local bobby comes round regularly. He has a chat and a cup of coffee. We work closely them on crime prevention, combating underage sales.
What are your views on the government pushing through the tobacco display ban and introducing plain packaging?
It is a waste of time. Neither plain packaging nor locking the cigarettes up behind the gantry will work. I have spoken to larger stores and they have told me sales have increased since the ban. I have got children so I know if you try to stop people doing something they do it more. You have got to be careful how you tackle the issue. People will still smoke.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to your local retailer?
Always be keen, always think of ways of improving your business. Always get feedback off your customers. We are having a complete new concept in chilled. We have prepared our customers for that. That is how we are working for our customers.
Which sections of the store work best for you and which are the most challenging?
The most challenging sections are groceries and chilled. They are a lot of hard work and are challenging, as is food-to-go which requires a lot of ordering. Alcohol is the easiest section.
Do you ever have customers asking for products they have seen on TV that you know nothing about?
It has happened. I don't watch TV so I wouldn't have seen the adverts. If anyone asks for anything we don't have we write it down immediately. Someone once asked for something outrageously expensive so I didn't order it. Eight times out of 10 I would invest in that product but you can't stock everything. Someone asked for spiced rum. I had never stocked it but I got it for him. I ordered it and it came the next day.
If you were to give up your store tomorrow, what would you like to do?
I wouldn't. We have had offers for the store from One Stop and McColl's. We said we were not interested. I am only 32, I have got a lot of working life left. Going from an 800sq ft store to 1700sq ft was hard. We were only closed half a day. I didn't want to let my clientele down. A lot of them are quite old. We have got 85 year old customers. I took a customer home. He was 92 and had walked half a mile to get his groceries. We have really good relationships with our customers.