Ketul Desai: Empowering my staff makes a huge difference

Ketul Desai says there’s nothing miraculous about the changes he’s made since purchasing his fourth store last year, yet profits have jumped by more than a third

Ketul Desai says there’s nothing miraculous about the changes he’s made since purchasing his fourth store last year, yet profits have jumped by more than a third. 

Asked what his secret to success is, he tells Retail Express: “It’s the same one every good shopkeeper knows, pennies make pounds.” Getting the detail right has had a big effect. “Every well-stocked line and well-presented aisle increases basket spend, customer frequency and overall satisfaction,” he explains. 

“Send a message to your customers that you care about every inch of your store and they will take the time to really explore it.”

The small, coastal village hides a larger potential audience; the 4,000 nuclear power plant workers either living locally or travelling through each day to the site. A long-planned extension of the station would bring the total up to 15,000 staff. Ketul says: “People bought businesses and property in town six years ago waiting for it to be built and they are still waiting, so it’s important to build a business that is successful in meeting current demands, but ready to respond to any changes.”

One of the changes the store has witnessed even in just the past 12 months is a decline in tobacco sales, which currently make up 25% of store revenue. 

“We’re moving the gantry under the counter and adding three metres of spirits because everything we’ve tried in that sector has sold. Now it’s just about giving it the space,”
he says.

Unlike most other multi-site independents, Ketul’s three stores are not close to each other, with more than 125 miles between them. 

“I manage it by having great staff. I walk into this store and I don’t have to worry about anything. I know it’s going to be right,” he explains.

He achieves this by moving experienced staff to new stores to replicate his business culture, by hiring experienced staff from supermarket rivals and by making a role in his store more than standing behind the counter. 

He says: “I empower my staff to generate and implement new ideas. We have meetings where my staff put forward ideas, we vote on whose are best and then we implement them. It has made a huge difference.”

Immediately after taking over his Leiston store, Ketul says he attended local meetings and began supporting community causes.

He explains: “It’s not about the name of the shop, it’s about the name of the shop owner.

“It’s incredible when you meet a retailer with eight stores but when you visit them in one of their shops, all their customers know the retailer by name. It’s a key point of differentiation for the independent retailer.”

Asked what his focus is for this year, he says: “It’s got to be food to go, we’ve got the kitchen, we’ve got the space. We want to develop a delivered takeaway offering that meets every
meal mission.”

Top tips

Community is security
“The best security measure a store can implement is being known in the community,” Ketul says. “We used to have problems with kids in other stores but it all evaporated as they grew up with us.”

Be proud
During the recent bad weather, Ketul told his customers that  he had driven for four hours to stock up on essentials. “We had 162 people like our Facebook page when we put up that notice,” he says. 

Treat your EPoS right
“The whole point of EPoS is to analyse, try new things and measure if they work. If you’re not using it for that you may as well save some money and go back to the big old 90s cash register,” he says. 


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