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    Exclusive look into ‘trending’ Hampshire c-store

    A convenience store can be a hard-core traditional business or a jazzy new-age place, depending on the man behind the till. In this age of Instagram and TikTok, there are a few smart retailers who are making some super-smart moves on social media to not only put their store on digital map but also to make it go viral, thus attracting massive footfall. One of such viral trending places is a Premier store on Wynch Lane in Gosport.

    Run by retailer Imtiyaz Mamode, Wych Lane Premier store is not only popular in its neighborhood, but what makes it stand apart is its huge fan following in the digital world that in turn drives people from as far away as Leicester and Burnley for its unique range of confectionery, soft drinks and snacks.

    Speaking to Asian Trader, Mamode talked in detail about the interesting history of the store, the unrivaled product line and how he uses social media to pull footfall and increase basket spend.

    He said, “I opened the store on Feb 16, 2019. The site was closed for many years and was not trading at all. It is an old structure standing since 1950s. Our local elderly customers tell us that there used to be a pub here long time back and then a Southern Co-op store for some time.”

    Since the store was in a dilapidated state when Mamode acquired it, he ended up investing a substantial amount to refurbish it and perk-up the place.

    Premier Gosport’s uniqueness lies in its one-of-its-kind product line, something which makes it a destination store among millennials and Gen Z, thus making it a TikTok star.

    Mamode told Asian Trader, “I always believed in listening to my customers and making sure to get them what they want. We connect with customers at a different level, whatever the age group they are from. We understand their needs and requirements. We know most of them personally and share a warm rapport with them.”

    “We also keep the pricing reasonable and within the affordability. If you’re selling a good range at a reasonable price, the customer won’t mind even traveling miles to pay a visit and stock in huge quantities.”

    “Whatever customers demanded, we supplied and that’s how we ended up stocking American confectionery. We started with close to 100 lines of American products. But after a huge demand, I have expanded it to between 300 to 450 lines of American products.

    The store also boasts of the region’s first in-house Real Tango Ice Blast machine.

    Mamode said, “We were first ones here to have the ice blast machine when we started our shop. We were the only one in entire Hampshire with that concept. As soon as we posted on our Facebook, the store saw a huge influx of shoppers.

    “Word of mouth spread like wildfire and within a week our machine broke down. However, within that time, we had already recovered our investment on the machine and had to install another one to cater to the long queues of customers and to offer different varieties.”

    Exclusive look into 'trending' Hampshire c-store

    Mamode himself handles all the social media channels of the store, and even records himself to catch first reaction while trying out new confectionery launches.

    “We keep a very close tab on social media channels and keep our followers engaged as well. We usually post a new product arrival or product launch. Sometimes it has happened that post got much attention that soon after the launch, the product got sold out,” he said.

    With almost 6,000 followers on Facebook and thousands more on TikTok, the store is now popular online as “treasure chest for candy” owing to variety of American sweets from Reece’s Pieces to Nerds along with American range of cereals, soft drinks and ice creams.

    In fact, some of the videos made by customers showing the store’s range have garnered millions of views, attracting people from far and wide, with some ending up spending hundreds of pounds on one visit. Clearly, this c-store has dual unique selling points (USPs), and they both compliment each other perfectly.

    Today, Premier Gosport store has developed the reputation that it has the kind of product range that is not available anywhere nearby and certainly not at one place.

    The store also has a 15-car parking space, something that makes it even more convenient for shoppers visiting the store from far-off places. The store employees 10 retail staff and is open 365 days a year.

    “We are open 7 to 11 every single day, be it Sundays, Bank Holidays, even Christmas and Boxing Day as well.”

    Exclusive look into 'trending' Hampshire c-store

    The store is actively involved in fundraising for local charities.

    “We frequently raise money for charities. We used to do Rafale draw and had raised a huge amount around Christmas time when we started. We also make it a point to support local school events.”

    Mamode’s next mission is to have a Boba Drinks counter in the store to tap into the new viral trend of Instagram-worthy Taiwanese boba tea, known for its chewy tapioca pearls and endless customisation options. Boba tea is touted as one of the most exciting trends at the moment with posts with #BobaTime on TikTok crossing 8.3 billion views.

    “I am still exploring and looking for suppliers, but this is what I would try to offer next in my store.

    “For me, the change happened through social media. It helped me to broaden my customer base beyond the close vicinity as I was able to put my store on the virtual map and on the must-visit list for young people. I hope to continue doing that,” he said.

    His work and the fact that he was able to pull this off so quickly and that too on a site that had previously been abandoned might make one assume that Mamode is a highly experienced retailer. But the fact is that he is an IT engineer by education and came into retailing only in 2019.

    However, what is clear that he is a new-age retailer who knows exactly how to tap social media, both for attracting shoppers as well as to understand what is trending, thus keeping his c-store a step ahead.

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