Me & My Store: Mo Razzaq, Jack’s of Blantyre

Mo Razzaq’s Jack’s of Blantyre store in South Lanarkshire is a beacon, showing what a great role a local store can play – and Mo himself, who is also a campaigning local councillor, is the definition of a pillar of the community.

Mo Razzaq

How would you describe your store?

The store is about 2,800 square feet. We were the first Booker supplied Jack’s store. We’ve got lots of fresh and chilled, and there’s value lines with Jack’s products. We’ve also got a dessert bar called Roxy’s, and a Subway franchise –and we’ve a post office, too.

What sort of trading area do you operate in?

It’s a main street and there’s two other grocery stores nearby, a newsagent and a Day Today. There is an Asda just about a mile away, and another shop around the corner, about half a mile. We’re predominantly in a housing area, with houses front and back, with a school nearby.

How long have you been a retailer?

This year it’ll be 33 years. My parents were in the business and I was going to join the navy, but my dad needed help and I came back. One thing led to another and I was left in charge of the shop. I had another store but I gave it up so I could spend more time on this one.

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

The best is the community, feeling that we are making a difference. We innovate – we started our delivery service four years ago. People love it. The worst? When we started here, the place was quite tough and rough. We worked on it and we’ve got to the stage where the shop is all open-plan. Yep. We work with the locals and everything else. There used to be a sense of violence and it was a lot more dangerous.

It’s got a lot better. If there are thieves we put up a photo of them on Facebook. We can’t legally accuse them so we just say we’re looking for these characters, and the locals  give us all the details about them because they are always on our side.

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

I do. I think we’re very lucky and we put a lot into the community. We’re just in the middle of putting up defibrillators all over Blantyre. There’s one in the shop and we are hoping to put another seven out. And people do pick up on that. We also do food-bags, and hang them around the town centre – not outside the shop, as we are not looking for brownie points. People respond to that. I’m a local councillor, too.

What is the biggest challenge in retailing?

Availability, availability everywhere. We’re not getting all the stuff we need. There seems to be shortages of lorry drivers and everything else. It’s just Brexit.

Also, we were a Family Shopper before and there was a lot of work involved, but there always is – like the Euros just now. We put a lot of effort into that and you’ve always got to create the atmosphere. I’m in the process of trying to arrange some subsidised day-trips for the locals.

Do you find the suppliers’ category management plans work?

Yes, they do work. The best ones have a bit of regional variance in them. Things change and you need always to look what your turnover is, how many units you’re selling. Historically a product can be doing well but then go on the slide – you’ve got to be very mindful.

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

Soft drinks do well, but people go for a weekly shop as well because of our chilled – we have 18 metres of refrigeration. And our bread’s quite strong. But I think it’s the fresh that really stands out because we carry good stock.

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

We read the trade press, magazines like yourself, and manufacturers send stuff through. We are always on the look-out and we use social media as well.

How much do your sales depend on seasons and weather?

A lot. When it’s rainy we do a lot more deliveries, and people know about it because we’ve been delivering for so long and it’s established. But I’d have to say that the best weather for our business would be hot and sunny!

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

Yes, we do. We have a CCTV system that cost over £20,000 and we have about ten outside cameras, and they use the footage.

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

I would say that you should get to know the local community – see if there is anybody who wants to play football and give them a couple of cases of water. It’s only £2.99 a case but it gets them to appreciate you. Little things like that.

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

I would probably say that the chilled section is the best for us. The Jack’s range also works really well. What doesn’t maybe do quite so well is Post Office and stationery. I think we need to work on that more, because of the location where we’ve got it is not ideal.

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

It would be good if someone came round to have a look and listen, more rep visits. Because they’ve dropped off.

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

Yeah, some things. For example, Walls have brought out a Calippo Slush, like a Tango Blast, and I found out about that on LinkedIn, so we contacted them through there.

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

Well, I like travelling and seeing things, so I’d like to travel to some countries I haven’t yet been to. I’ve been to France, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Tunisia, Czech Republic, Pakistan … I think China would be good.