Alkesh Pankhania – ‘I know every single corner of my business’

Fifteen years of retailing is no mean feat but, surrounded by his customers at the street party he held, Best-one this Best-one retailer makes it look easy.

Location: Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey

Hours: 6.30am-10.30pm Mon-Sat, 7.30am-10pm Sun

Staff: 4

Size: 800sq ft

Trading since: 2002

Fifteen years of successful convenience retailing is no mean feat but, surrounded by his customers at the street party he held earlier this month, Best-one retailer Alkesh Pankhania makes it look easy.

“It’s because of my customers’ support that I’m still here and I’ve enjoyed every single day of it,” he says.

When he first bought the shop in Sunbury-on-Thames for his 30th birthday, it was taking £3,500 a week – now it boasts £15,000 a week, not including services.

He wants to boost sales further with a refit and more investment in food to go.

Alkesh previously had a hot food unit, but made the decision to remove it because of the high level of maintenance and staff training it demanded. He replaced his units with a microwave and found that people began buying chilled pies, samosas and microwave meals to warm up instead.

“Food to go in this area is fantastic,” he says. “We’d also like to have more chilled ready meals. I think introducing two more 3.75m chillers would do it. Then I’d have one for soft drinks, alcohol, chilled and top-up.”

Coffee to go is an important part of his offer, with an unmissable Tchibo machine sited to the immediate right of the entrance next to his slush machine. “Other stores in the area don’t do coffee. We introduced it two years ago and I did the training with the guy and worked on it for the next three weeks. Then I passed it on to my staff,” he says.

“I know every single corner of my business. Every single job my staff do, I’ve done; from cleaning toilets to doing the orders.”

Alkesh holds every area of the store to the same high standards as he does himself. By his own admission, he’s fussy, but that ensures that he runs a tight operation. “Other shops open and close when they want. I’m very strict with my opening times. I’m the same with stock, if you don’t have good availability of products then you’ll struggle.”

The store’s refit is centred around further appealing to the affluent area. It already stocks a wide range of wines, but Alkesh is determined to drive spend. “We currently have standard branded wines. We want to do different ones and introduce two or three shelves that top the £10 mark,” he says.

Through all the changes of the past 15 years, Alkesh has remained determined to maintain a healthy work-life balance. “I’ve balanced work with family and that’s what makes us special. This store has a family atmosphere,” he says.

“I’ve enjoyed the past 15 years. I think some retailers make the mistake of going until the very end and find they haven’t enjoyed their life. I’m enjoying my life now, perhaps I’ll reach 25 years here and then go out in style.”

Top tips

Measure what’s hot and what’s not at the cash & carry

Check dates on new products. He says: “When I go into a cash & carry I register the month a product goes out of date. If I go back in and it’s the same date you know it’s not selling.”

Recognise, then spend time filling your knowledge gaps

Know every area of your business. “Too many retailers don’t know their customers, staff, or if their business is doing well,” he says.

Honesty is the best policy

Don’t cheat your customers. “I’ve heard of retailers that water down their slush solutions to save money. I don’t like customers being cheated. Without them, we don’t have a business,” he says.

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