Profile: Linda Sood, Falcon Convenience Store

Family and business go hand in hand for Linda Sood. As she watched her father run his store, she learned from an early age the hard work that went into running a small business. She now has 32 years of her own retail experience and hopes to pass her father’s work ethic onto her children.

The facts
  • Location: Portsmouth
  • Trading since: November 1982
  • Staff: Five
  • Size: 550sq ft
  • Hours: 6am – 7.30pm Mon-Sat, 6am – 5pm Sun

“My father’s shop in London was a little gold mine,” Linda explains. “I often didn’t see my parents come home before midnight because they were so busy in those days – there weren’t the supermarkets to compete with.”

When Linda and her husband Kamal bought their first business they wanted to be closer to their young family. “We were lucky, our first store was just ideal – the rent was very low, there was a lot of potential to grow professionally, and we could live with our children in the property,” she says.

Despite the luck in their choice of property, she admits that she still needed to borrow money from her father for new stock and to remodel the rundown store.

Eighteen months ago more drastic changes were needed to survive, so the couple moved to a larger property next door to fulfil their business potential. Originally a newsagent, their main focus was on cards and boxes of chocolates but when they switched properties the Sood’s changed to a Premier convenience store to compete with the supermarkets and the evolving high street.

“We started slowly with longer trading hours, adding tea bags or toilet rolls, and progressed into convenience,” she says. “You must look at the competition around you. Our cards have shrunk to not even one bay – we have a Card Factory two doors away. To survive you must focus on what’s around you and maximise the opportunities that aren’t on the high street.”

Linda aimed to fill the confectionery gap that Woolworths left and has seen a 30% increase in sales since moving stores and making themselves a confectionery specialist. As a result, a large proportion of their display is dedicated to the category, ranging from impulse bagged sweets to premium boxes of chocolates, ensuring they’re catering for all customers.

She says: “We have all sorts of customers because we have a lot of passing trade. We don’t have to keep our eye too much on confectionery shoplifting as there are no schools nearby.”

She demanded her sons have an education and work outside the industry so they could learn a good work ethic before they take over the store when she retires.

Her son, Bobby, has an accountancy background, but will be joining his parents after learning the ropes and the dedication it takes to run his own business.

“He wasn’t pressurised in to joining us, but he can see there’s money to be made in our industry,” says Linda. “I understand why others don’t want to follow in their family footsteps because it’s 24 hours a day so you can never escape.

“I still love what I do and I when I think about retirement I can’t imagine not being here – it’s been my life.”

Linda plans to bring in more local produce this year, so she’s in the process of introducing meat from a local farmer into her chilled section. She’s also working with Booker to introduce a loyalty scheme to try to retain customers in a similar way to the multiples.

“As an industry we’ve got to always try new things and think how we’re going to get customers into our stores and keep them,” she says.



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