Bal Ghuman has run his store, AK Convenience in the Shrewsbury suburb of Monkmoor, for just over seven years.
The store has a great location. There are, as Bal says, “thousands of chimneypots” within walking distance. His store stands alone, opposite a church. The corner that it sits on is “a rat run, between two main roads”. There are three schools within a short walk, and the children from these schools provide huge footfall, especially in the morning.
Location: Monkmoor, Shrewsbury
Hours: 6.30am-9pm Mon-Sat, 7.30am-9pm Sun
Size: 800sq ft
Trading since: 2009
Bal, however, is not one to rest on his laurels, and is looking for the next way to increase his takings and improve his store. “The important thing about being a retailer is not to give customers a reason to look elsewhere,” he says.
Bal attended the Local Shop Summit at Twickenham last year, and from it says he got guidance on two key areas that he wants to explore in 2017: fruit & veg, and gluten-free produce.
His store has a good outside space, and he wants to utilise this for fruit & veg. Although concerned about theft, he has looked at solutions in other stores and is keen to push this forward.
“I think there’s a big opportunity with fruit and veg. I heard people talking at the LSS about how to make this work, and I think there’s a real opportunity in this area.”
Gluten-free produce is an area that Bal admits he knows very little about. But he recognises that there is an opportunity in his customer area. He’s already started planning space on his limited shelves to make room by analysing his current product mix.
“I don’t need a brand name and an own brand of products like these,” he says, gesturing at his jars and sauces range. “If someone is buying mint sauce from me, they just want mint sauce. So I’m clearing space to introduce gluten free lines in this area.”
Brand names are something that are of great interest to Bal. His customers love his price-marked ranges, and Bal says that they trust him implicitly when he stocks them, as its “makes it look like I’m not ripping them off”. Almost 90% of his shelves are price-marked, but the focus is on both own brand and big power brands.
“If a product is available in price-marked format, I stock it,” he says. “The range I have is interesting. Take butter, for example. I sell Euroshopper products, but also £2-labelled Clover. I spoke to a guy keeps buying Clover at £2. Everything else he buys – bread, drinks, whatever – is own brand.. I said to him that we have a cheap £1 margarine, might he not want that? He held up the Clover and said “No. Always Clover”. Brand power is so strong that you can’t avoid it.”
2017 will be a year of looking forward for Bal, as he embraces new trends and ideas, as well as challenges like new tobacco legislation that might mean his customers are forced to dig deeper into their pockets to buy bigger packs of rolling tobacco.
But as busy as it might be, Bal boils down the business of being a shopkeeper into as simple a format as possible.
“Retailers need to know three phrases,” he says. “Please, Thank You, and Anything Else?”