Retailer Dee Sedani talks to Asian Trader about an interesting piece of technology he has recently developed and the people skills needed to manage a store.

When did your retail career begin? 
I first got into the retail business 20 years ago. I was in programming, but I loved retail, so left the industry and bought some stores. Retailing is a lot of fun and every day is a different. You definitely have good days and bad days but it’s never boring because you don’t have the same routine all the time. There are new challenges, legislation problems – whether we can change them or not I don’t know – but it keeps me going.

Do you have to be a people person to be in retail?
Whether it is your staff, your supplier, a customer you meet down the street – everything is about human interactions, how you get on with people and how you want to be perceived. How I view it with my team is that I am not your boss, you are your own boss, we are all integrated together. I don’t want it to be a case of ‘the boss is coming’, I don’t believe in that kind of hierarchy, we are all people. 

What is unique about your stores?
In my village store in Etwall we are very heavy on the home delivery of news, so that’s our USP in that store. We serve roughly 580 customers a day and have 25 newspaper boys and a van on the road that goes around the countryside delivering to remote areas.

Are you involved with the local community?
We get involved in the village fete and in sponsoring different things. At the moment, we are looking at sponsoring the local football team. 

Do you use social media to promote your stores?
We do use social media in dribs and drabs but I want to find a middle ground between doing too much and doing none. We do a campaign every two weeks or so, not every day, as I think people get overstimulated with information and it is easy to switch people off, instead of switching them on. We did some promotions over Christmas about our new coffee machine and cash machine that got some traction behind it.

You won the Asian Trader award for innovation in 2014. What have you been working on recently?
We’ve developed a piece of software called Retail Guardian. It isn’t just for our own use, we are actively selling it and the Co-Op are looking at it, and some other interesting players. The software was designed around some of the problems I encountered in my store, and it is all about managing people and processes. It has been going around a year and is a massive project – we have about 45-50 retailers using it and they are reporting real tangible benefits. It works by using fingerprinting technology to track actions and it also keeps tabs on training and rotas.  

Do you work closely with manufacturers on product ranging and merchandising?
No, because my stores are One Stops, which are owned by Tesco, so all our merchandising is sent down via planograms.  

Have you noticed any interesting consumer trends lately?
This is something I have been discussing over the last few days and I’m not really sure there are trends as such because there is not much loyalty left in our sector. These days people buy on price and promotions and everything is a lot more commercialised. We have lost Christmas, Valentine’s and Easter because these things are advertised for months in advance. Cadbury Creme Eggs came out in November – it is something I have come to accept. 

What is your favourite product? 
You are asking me about my favourite product in the shop? Now that is putting me on the spot! Pepsi-Max to be honest – I drink it all the time.