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    From corner shop to community icon

    Retailer Sunder Sandher

    In the world of convenience stores, selling daily supplies, managing inventory, and sourcing stock are fundamental tasks. Yet, some stores manage to go beyond the ordinary, setting benchmarks for high-value convenience retailing.

    This edition’s spotlight is on One Stop store in Leamington Spa owing to the slew of the personalised thoughtful services as well as welcoming warmth offered by the store along with thoughtfully-curated food and household products.

    Leamington Spa’s One Stop store at Tachbrook Road is standing for decades, spanning a rich vivid history. The store is currently run by second-generation retailer Sunder Sandher. He has not only developed his corner shop into the current major competition to nearby shops as well as the multiple, but also managed to keep the store at the heart of the community, tuning it with local residents’ needs and requirements.

    The store was opened as Royal Leamington Spa way back in 1983 by Sandher’s father Kundan Singh, who was an immigrant from Punjab in India.

    After landing in the UK in 1955, Singh dabbled in farming and worked in a plastic factory before buying an empty dilapidated hairdresser shop and refurbishing it, first to sell furniture and then soon reopening it as a grocery store. Interestingly, the same premises hosted another grocery shop, Co-op store, way back in 1943.

    Like other family-run convenience stores at the time, Royals was run by Singh and his wife Surjit Kaur along with the helping hand from the couple’s seven children.

    From corner shop to community icon
    Old picture of Leamington Spa store

    After the demise of Singh, the store’s rein came into in the hands of Sandher (the eldest child) though he had no prior experience in retailing.

    Sandher might not have much experience behind the tills, but he still possessed oomph and entrepreneurial fire. By this time, he had already bought an old van from the scrap yard for £50 and was running errands for his uncle’s grocery shop in Brunswick Street. He would bring stuff from the cash-and-carry, supermarket, and from Stratford farmers’ market.

    Soon after taking over the family store, Sandher quickly expanded the shop, doubling and then trebling its size as the business grew over the years. Now his wife, Pam, also helps in running the family shop on daily basis.

    Sandher strongly believes in “risk-taking and hard work”.Over the years, the store affiliated itself to a couple of fascias before settling in on One Stop about a decade ago in 2014.

    Today, the store is not only a place to buy daily supplies, but it is more like a hangout zone for locals who love to pop in here. No wonder, the store and the man behind it are well-attuned to the need and changing taste of the community.

    Apart from stocking the wholesome and interesting line of food, drinks and other household items, the store is also playing a key role in cash circulation in the community.

    From corner shop to community icon

    In the light of rapidly decreasing bank branches and the decline in free-to-use ATMs, the store made sure that its community’s residents remain unaffected. A few years ago, Sandher agreed to pay his cash machine provider £200 a month to keep it free-to-use after the firm tried to impose a charge, because he saw it as a service to customers.

    “I serve the local community,” he said at the time. “I had to keep it free-to-use because I was losing sales.”

    Sandher’s community as well as entrepreneurial spirit has not gone unnoticed. His store was featured as part of a study tour by Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) where a group of 30 flew over to discover the best in UK convenience retailing.

    For his exceptional service during Covid lockdown, Sandher was among those who were honoured with a Shop Local Shop Little Heroes Award 2020 from The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) in recognition of his business successes and community work. He was even invited to attend a royal party to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III at Buckingham Palace Royal Garden Party in May 2023 along with the country’s other leading achievers and other dignitaries.

    A community-spirited individual, Sandher believes in sewa (serving).

    He says, “If community respects and supports you, you have a moral duty to serve the community.”

    Currently, Sandher is also a governor of two local schools and has served as a Justice of the Peace for ten years on the Coventry Courts.

    Today, the store also runs a vibrant, wide and buzzing food to go, bakery and hot food section, which Sandher described to Asian Trader as “great addition to store”. Keeping with the times, the store now provides home delivery through Snappy Shopper, a growing home delivery platform specifically designed for convenience stores, offering 30 to 60-minute grocery delivery at in-store pricing.

    The store’s staff get regular training as Sandher strongly believes that “great customer service is the key” to better footfall and higher sales, something that certainly seems to be this store’s USP.

    Over the years, One Stop store in Leamington Spa has emerged more than a place to buy groceries; it is rather a community lifeline and a hub. Shoppers here, who are mostly locals, not only get their daily supplies from the store but they (especially the elderlies) also get a warm conversations and long chats.

    Over 40 years, this store has diligently remained open on all the days of the year, even on every Christmas, thus offering the local community as well as those living alone “a warm mince pie” and an even warmer greetings.

    One Stop store in Leamington Spa is a shining example here of how dedication, community spirit and a basic thought can transform a simple corner shop into a beloved community hub. Footfalls and sales will follow. Indeed, sometimes, the best stories are found right around the corner.

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