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    Exclusive look at highly automated Carlton c-store

    One Stop Carlton store

    As the saying goes, change is the only constant. In a world of constant change, those who adapt are the ones who flourish. Also, adaptability is not just about embracing change; it’s about leveraging it as a springboard for innovation and progress.

    Such technologically enabled progress can be seen at the One Stop Carlton store where every aspect, right from procurement to inventory to marketing and customer care, is a tech-enabled marvel in itself.

    Retailer Priyesh Vekaria told Asian Trader how he was always clear and determined to establish a store that is par excellence when he got the place in 2018.

    His parents run a store in Salford and he had seen retailing up and close before he left the nest to pursue a law degree. After spending about 10 years in policing, he decided to come back to retailing and buy a store of his own.

    He said, “Following a law degree and 10 years in the police, I was drawn to the retail industry as both my parents had successfully run a shop for over 30 years. Drawing on what I learnt from them, my own experiences growing up and the transferable skills from my law and police backgrounds, I enabled my own store with the right set of tools, automated systems and tech-help, including reliable partners like One Stop.”

    Vekaria feels running an automated store gives him more time and energy to focus on his customers, without worrying about things such as the daily cash and carry runs, or the extra early morning starts.

    Exclusive look at highly automated Carlton c-store
    Retailer Priyesh Vekaria

    “It was probably family time that was sacrificed when I was growing up but now being the father of a young daughter myself, I want to spend more time with her. Automated systems like automatic stock ordering and planograms help us to keep a track of my inventory, check the orders and any manual adjustments if required.”

    Since he does not hop from depot to depot in search of the best prices and discounts and is a “happy One Stop partner”, he feels he has more time to run the business and understand the needs of his customers.

    “We are no longer striving for the biggest margin we can possibly achieve but rather focusing on volume sales with the right products for the customer. One Stop gave us the point of difference we were looking for, which is a wider range and products that customers really wanted, including the provision of more fresh and chilled lines. One Stop also supported us with the deliveries, which was a big deal to us at the time as previously these were hit and miss.”

    Another of the store’s attractions is its carefully curated food to go section, especially “Lush Slush by Professor Slush”, a copyright innovation by Vekaria himself.

    “I came up with an idea to keep alcohol slush for adults. When I did not find a suitable supplier, I developed this on my own after multiple permutations and combination to find the just right mix. It was only meant for our local customers, but thanks to social media and national press coverage, word spread and now we get customers coming from far distances just for this slush,” he told Asian Trader.

    Exclusive look at highly automated Carlton c-store
    Pictures taken at One Stop Carlton Convenience, Manchester. 26/05/23

    The idea inspired other retailers too who often come to him to seek advice, he said.

    Vekaria also makes good use of social media, especially to attract younger generations.

    He explained how he uses the store’s Facebook page for formal notices and updates about what he is doing in the community such as outreach projects while he uses Instagram in more of a hybrid way- both for the corporate messaging with a twist of fun.

    Tik Tok is for “pure fun” and for connecting with the local community, particularly the younger customers.

    “Tik Tok is good. It gives us better tools and better reach too, which is great for the business. We have younger customers who see our posts trending on social media and come in seeking those products,” he said.

    Another tech-wonder of One Stop Carlton is its delivery vehicle. The store has a vinyl wrapped delivery vehicle which has its own QR code to promote the service in a ‘click’.

    “We pioneered the concept so when the vehicle was doing its deliveries and anybody noticed it, they just took a picture, which got them straight onto our delivery page. As everyone has a smart phone nowadays this provides another quick way for customers to get their shopping from our store.” he said.

    Being raised in a retail family, Vekaria understands well the importance of community. The store also keeps a life-saving defibrillator kit for whoever is in need.

    Despite the rising retail crime rate and cases of violence against shop staff in the country, One Stop Carlton store has not faced rise in such cases.

    “My police background has trained me how best to deal with confrontation and difficult situations swiftly and efficiently. Coupled with the fact that is a close-knit community, we don’t get much trouble.”

    He explained that whatever shoplifting the store faces, it broadly falls into two categories- the financially strained people who are stealing to feed their family and the repeat offenders who are usually drug addicts.

    “We ask people who need support to not steal and rather pick what they want and come to the till where we can figure out how much we can wave off or give for free. But for the latter group, we don’t hesitate in confronting and overpowering them before seizing the products from them.”

    Vekaria is certainly a tech-savvy next-generation retailer who knows how to take his convenience store forward with innovations and automation, making it into a destination store.

    “We need to be ready to adapt when and where necessary. Trends change and we want to be at the forefront of these,” he said.

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