How would you describe your store?
My store is clean, fresh, friendly and has a large variety of products in it. It's a big asset to the community it works from. It's about 900 sq. ft. and has nice blue floors. We've had LED lighting put in so its nice and bright when you walk in. Basically it is a nice, up-to-date and modern shop.
What sort of trading area do you operate in?
It's in a parade of eight shops and on one of the main roads in the whole of Middlesbrough, opposite a big estate. So I get all the passing trade, people commuting from work, school, football matches, everything. I'd say 70-75 percent of my customers are regular and about 25 percent are passing. We do DPD, the parcel pick up, that brings in a lot of new customers. Just recently, we also got PayPoint and that's been fantastic. We are open till 11 when all the other shops in the area shut. I have a two hour gap where anyone from the whole area needing a top-up, anything to do with utilities or the PayPoint sector, I get.
How long have you been a retailer?
I have been a retailer for eight years. I had my Cargo Fleet store for about five years and then I bought my second shop. I have had that for about three years and now I'm expanding into a third Middlesbrough business.
What is the best thing and the worst thing about the job?
The hours are the worst because they are long. Also we never close, we're even open Christmas day, so for me there is no day off. It just eats up a lot of your time. However I don't work in any of my shops, they are totally staff-run. I am in them every day but I don't actually do a shift. I go out and source products, getting the right product at the right price to put in the stores. I have a manager at both shops and only a couple of part-time staff. The rest of them are full time.
Do you ever get customers asking for products they have seen advertised on TV which you don't have?
Anything customers ever ask for that we don't have, we write down. We then reassure the customer that within the next two or three days we'll do our best to get that product in for them. I also put up a sign in the window and I tell all my good customers that if there is anything we don't stock just ask and we'll do our best to get that product in. I've got three cash and carries to go and choose from in Middlesbrough, so if one doesn't have it another will.
How do you get up to date information on new products?
We get a lot of trade magazines sent to us, and out of them all I love Asian Trader. I think it's because its called Asian Trader and I take to that more than the others! I've been getting them for years and years. I even take them home and let my dad read them. He's got nothing to do with markets or selling any more but he likes to read them anyway. Sometimes he tells me 'Oh, did you read that?', if you miss things he's like 'Oh, have a look at this, have a look at that'.
Do you get the support you need from the local police force?
I can't knock my local police force and the PCSO in my area. They've been great with us in helping to tackle antisocial behaviour. I only have to pick up the phone to the Community Support Officers, and they are round. Plus because I have very good camera systems in my area and my shops I tend to pick up a lot of crime that is nothing to do with the shops. It might be a stolen car or motorbike, somebody trying to use a dodgy credit card and so the police are always in. We've got good relations with our local police.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to your local retailer?
A lot of these people get into retail now and they think they have to be stuck behind a counter 12 hours a day. That is why, especially with a lot of Asians, they end up stuck in these shops behind the till, not having a life. But if you put the right repo system and the right cameras in place you will be able to take that step back and employ staff.
Also when offers come in on the buying side for a product you are selling big quantities of, don't just buy a few extra cases. Save some money up so when those offers do come on you can capitalise on it and buy three or four pallets of that product. For example I sell a lot of Fosters, so when it is on offer I buy five or six pallets of that one item. Nappies, baby milk, things that you sell every day, when the Mega Days are on and the cash and carries are throwing their big trade shows, go take advantage. My motto is 'stack it high, sell it cheap'. That is how you make your money.
What sections of the store work best for you and which are the most challenging?
We sell a lot of alcohol and the general side – your cling film, washing up powders, detergents. I concentrated on it over the last couple of years so it has really picked up. What I believe now is that people are starting to do smaller shops day-to-day, where before they would go to the supermarket and spend £100 a week. Now they are just starting to get essentials on the day they need them. Its probably because of the state of the economy.
If you were to give up your store tomorrow, what would you like to do?
I'd go into wholesale. I'd only want to go up the chain. If I was to do wholesale I'd start my own business. I don't like to work with anyone, I like to be my own boss. I don't want anyone at the top telling me what I can and can't do!