OPINION: Keep trying new things – Alan Mannings, Shop on the Green, Chartham, Canterbury

'We know our customers and we know they don’t want promotions, they want accessible products they can pick up at the last minute'

Convenience store shop aisle generic

Our customer demographic ranges from young people to 94-year-olds, and we have, by and large, settled into a range of products that works for them. Elderly customers come in for their ready meals, which are nice and easy for them to put in the microwave that evening, and the youngsters are coming in for Prime energy drinks and similar products.

Most of our sales come from snacking and alcohol products, with only 14% coming from grocery. It’s about knowing what people want and looking out for changes.

You’ve got to look at the demographics in your local area. You can look at the census to see how many people are in the area, what they earn and what other shops are nearby that might be your competition. You need to work on the area you’re within first.

We’re no longer a part of Londis, and this means that we’re no longer getting the allocations every month. These are basically promotions on a range of products, but they were often things our customers didn’t want. We’d get thousands of pounds-worth of stuff that just sat on our shelves.

We know our customers and we know they don’t want promotions, they want accessible products they can pick up at the last minute. We know that because we look at our sales data and manage it.

Some of our customers’ purchasing habits never change, so we end up keeping things to a basic level for them, which is a bit sad, because you want to move on and get people to try different things. We know our customers don’t like Au Vodka, so even if a new one comes out, we don’t get it in because it won’t sell.

That said, we still put new things out to test them because it’s so important to try new things, and it does pay off. We’re putting out Herr’s Crisps at the moment. They’re jalapeno-flavoured and cost around £2, and they are selling week in, week out. We’ve got another new supplier from which we buy Brett’s Crisps, and again, despite the high price of more than £2, people come in and buy them because they love them.

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