How would you describe your store?
It is modern, it was refitted two years ago, it has clean finish, it's tidy and very contemporary. It is 1500sq ft in size. We do the full convenience range and have an in-house post office.
What sort of trading area do you operate in?
It is quite rural, with a mixed demographic. There are cottages and bungalows where the pensioners live. There is also a big housing estate, a more affluent area with bigger houses and semi-detached houses in the middle so there is a real mix. We also get customers from the surrounding villages.
What is the best and the worst thing about the job?
The best thing is the banter with customers. The worst thing is the seven day commitment. It is constant, work is never done. The work can be overwhelming but I have a good set of staff. We all muck in and get the job done.
Do you think retailers get the respect they deserve from the local community?
Yes, I think they do. If a retailer provides a good offering, competitively priced with a good service I see no reason for him to not be respected. I certainly am. I have been very well received and welcomed in the village. It is partly because I have improved the store and increased the size.
Do you find the suppliers’ category management plans work?
Yes, they do. They follow a nice easy flow. Booker did my planogram. It fits nicely and works well. You judge by customer feedback and my customers like the layout.
How do you get up to date information on new products?
I get text messages and emails from Booker. I go on to the Booker website. The site has an ordering function, so I click on that and it tells me the new product launches. It is much more convenient than going through a whole catalogue.
How much do your sales depend on seasons and weather?
A little. There is a seasonal element to it. There is a summer uplift when there are higher sales of ice cream, soft drinks, fresh fruit and veg. But in the winter there is not such a dip. I am quite far from major supermarkets. People have to travel further to supermarkets so they use small stores a lot.
Do you get the support you need from the local police force?
Yes. We have a community officer who comes in for a chat. We have CCTV cameras outside the property looking at the entrance. The officer looks at the footage to see if there is any crime. We have a good relationship.
What are your views on the government pushing through the tobacco display ban and plain packaging?
Customers consider it more of an inconvenience than anything else. The general view is that it won't stop people smoking. The display ban is already in supermarkets of course. Time will tell if it makes a difference. Electronic cigarettes are proving popular and so could dent tobacco sales. They are making smoking more accessible to people who wouldn't have smoked before.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to your local retailer?
Service is paramount and so is availability of products. Our customers tell us our service levels is one of the best they have seen. We open doors for customers. When one of our regular customers enters the store we will have their cigarettes and newspaper ready for them. It goes a long way. If you want to stand out from the rest then your service should be the highest level you can deliver.
What sections of the store work best for you and which are the most challenging?
Soft drinks and confectionery go well for me. They don't just appeal to one demographic but across the whole age group. Fresh stuff is more challenging. We sometimes have limited space in terms of being able to stock fresh fruit and veg.
Do you ever have customers asking for products they have seen on TV that you know nothing about?
Not really. We tend to notice a lot of products that have been launched but take a couple of weeks to get to us.
If you were to give up your store tomorrow, what would you like to do?
I would consider going into the wholesale market. Or maybe consultancy, to go round shops and see if we can improve their turnover by making suggestions for improvements.