Me & My Store: Jignesh Chauhan

Chartered engineer Jignesh Chauhan swapped an oil rig for his shop gig and has recently refurbished his shop on Stirling Street, Airdrie, Scotland, changing it to a Spar. He says he has gone big on food to go and is loving it.

Jignesh Chauhan

How would you describe your store?

I try to think of it not as a store but more like a friendly place where we know the customers and try to give them best service. It’s a real local store, quite small at 695 square feet, on a main road. We used to be a Day Today but have now become a Spar.

What sort of trading area do you operate in?

Because of customer service, people come from quite far away. Whenever they’re on this street, they always like to visit the store. We are about 10 km east of Glasgow – its a small town, and my local competition is a Farm Foods across the road and a big Aldi behind me.

How long have you been a retailer?

I have had this store for five years, and it is my first. I’m actually a chartered engineer. I was working offshore when market crashed, and in 2016 I was laid off. So I decided to do this. I really enjoy it because 90 per cent of customers are regulars and don’t go anywhere else.

What is the best and the worst thing about the job?

When customers are happy and walk out with a smile on their face, that’s the best. The downside is the long hours; I know everybody says the same. And occasionally you get someone who thinks, this guy hasn’t been to college, he’s just running the store. When somebody talks to me like that, I let them know I’m an engineer.

What is the biggest challenge in retailing?

If you don’t have good staff, it’s really hard. And training staff to deliver the same service that you do yourself. Luckily, I’ve found really good staff now, with a similar mentality to me.

Do you think retailers get the respect they deserve from the local community?

I’ll say 75 to 80 per cent – because I know so many of them. I think from as people came in, I just asked them their name, so I could greet them personally when they came in next time. During pandemic the best thing was more people discovering we are not overpriced, and also friendly and local and well-stocked.

Do you find the suppliers’ category management plans work?

I do use them but I realised over the years, if you keep seeing things in one place, people get fed up. So what I do is every week, I move things from the top shelf to bottom, bottom to top, so it’s always a fresh new look – and that way you minimise your wastage.

What brands or categories do you find bring more footfall into your store?

Most of the time, well-known brands and things advertised on TV. Customers always come in for those things.

How do you get up to date information on new products?

Unitas used to send information on new products fairly quickly which was good. Otherwise, what will happen, it’s hit and miss. So the first load is always going to sell out, but then a little bit later, you end up stuck with the stock. I always ask customers to give me reviews, as soon as they buy.

How much do your sales depend on seasons and weather?

If there’s nice sunny weather it’s always a little bit extra, but my sales figures are pretty constant. The difference is really nice weather or a big football match or something special.

Do you get the support you need from the local police force?

Yes we do get that, although one area we don’t get so much support is shoplifting. Before Spar I used to have quite a lot of theft but since then, it’s really much better. I’m not seeing those people in the shop anymore. Perhaps they think because it looks so new and professional, they’ll be caught!

What is the best piece of advice you would give to your local retailer?

I think a couple of things. One, move the stock around, as I said. The second thing is the cleaning, and keeping the floor area clear, even with a delivery, as soon as possible. Always be accessible, nice and tidy.

What sections of the store work best for you and which are the most challenging?

After the refit my best is food to go: milkshakes, slushies, ice cream, hotdogs and coffee. F’real is excellent. I got the standard unit and right away 80 per cent of the fridge was empty. When I first brought in hotdogs it was crazy! The hardest thing at the moment is frozen because not many customers realise I now have such a range where before I didn’t.

What help/advice would you like to see most from manufacturers/suppliers?

Everything is fine! CJ Lang and Spar are doing a great job. I try to get maximum stuff from CJ Lang but I think there are certain areas they don’t do price mark. For me, I think PMPs builds confidence that manufacturers put the prices on so we are not making our own.

Do you ever have customers asking for products they have seen on TV that you know nothing about?

Yes, Ido. Sometimes you miss something – it happens with me as well. And then you try and get it in as quick as possible.

If you were to give up your store tomorrow, what would you like to do?

I think I will go back to my old job, back to the rig. You finish at five o’clock and don’t need to worry about, do we have enough stock and other things.