‘I did my homework and saw an opportunity’

If you ever read shining examples of retailing and think it’s impossible to replicate in a very small shop, you should pay Robert Kirkwood a visit.

LocationCrossgates, Fife

Hours: 8am-9pm Mon-Sat, 8am-8pm Sun

Staff: Two full-time, one part time

Size450sq ft

Trading sinceNovember 2015

If you ever read shining examples of convenience retailing and think it’s impossible to replicate in a very small shop, you should pay Robert Kirkwood a visit.

Despite only becoming a retailer and opening his Premier Express store in Crossgates, Fife, 16 months ago, Robert has built up a business that’s a hit with the locals and is beating all its targets.

The 450sq ft store is located on the corner of a busy road, with no parking facilities, so it doesn’t immediately seem like a lucrative spot, but by researching the area and its customers, Robert is really making it work.

“I did my homework – I sat across the road night and day on different days, just watching the traffic and footfall; seeing where cars were going and people were walking,” he says. “I thought “you know, there is an opportunity here”, and I approached the landlord.”

Previously, Robert worked in sales for blue chip companies, dealing with independent stores, but when his mother died he made the decision to pursue a dream to run his own store. “I always said “if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right,” he says. “This shop is my pride and joy. I’m here seven days a week, but I love it to bits.”

The shop is filled with everything a shopper might need, including chilled food, fruit and veg, hot drinks and an ATM. “When I first opened, I got a feel for what customers wanted and just built the shelves up,” he says.

It also has its own unique twist with a bespoke craft beer display, including beers from two local suppliers based two and six miles away, respectively. “I had a customer drive 45 minutes from St Andrews just to buy my beers as I’m the only stockist of the two local beers,” he explains. “At Christmas, I did gift packs with three craft beers and a glass in a gift box for £11, which went well.”

The display makes around £200 a week and Robert has plans to increase it with a range of craft ales from another supplier.

As you walk around the shop, it’s striking how immaculate it is. Robert and his one full-time staff member Marzena Dobrzynska make sure every line is faced up and there’s not one price label missing or out of place. Robert says: “These are our standards across the store. If something sells, it’s brought through from the back and replaced or faced up.”

However, he is facing the threat of new competition, with a One Stop due to open on the other side of the road.

“Value is important here. Customers say “why would I want to go to Tesco or Asda when the choice is here” and that we’re cheaper than supermarkets, but the new shop will probably be able to beat me on pricing,” he says.

Working with Booker, he plans to introduce meal deals and is considering how he can use space in his store room to extend his offer, perhaps with a food to go range.

“I’ve got to stay one step ahead, up my game and make sure everything is pristine,’ he adds. “It will all be down to loyalty.”

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