He has been working in the business since he was 11 years old, and now Serge Notay is using all his retail know-how to offer consumers something different.
His Nisa Local has been trading for little more than a year, and most people in Heckmondwike are used to buying their cigarettes and newspapers elsewhere. So Serge has had to be creative in order to transform his customers from opportunist shoppers to hardened Notay loyalists.
One way he is doing so is by offering deals and advertising them loud and clear – particularly through his pound zone.
“The £1 price point is very important in this shop – it’s all about deals. But the margin has got to be right,” he says.
His £1 zone, which currently includes a mix of household products, cereals and confectionery, offers him margins of between 20 and 40 per cent.
“Some retailers might sell £40,000 of products a week, but what good is it if your margins are too low.”
He spends hundreds of pounds on £1 price stickers during the year but it is worth it because it is very important for his customers that they feel they are getting good value for money, and these stickers help to shift products.
The shop’s pillars are dressed up regularly with different lines to showcase the excellent offers, such as the current two-for-£5 on cat food.
“What I really enjoy is when I set up a deal in my head and it then sells really well,” he says.
“This works particularly well with cross category deals like the one we’re doing at the moment with £3 for pasta, beef mince and tomato sauce.”
Getting his staff involved and giving them the opportunity to be a part of his business has been crucial. They know what the profit margins are on all his products and what the sales figures are.
“I could close my eyes and they would be able to run the store for me,” says Serge.
When there is good news, the team celebrates together. When the shop was nominated for the IAA top 100 retailers last year, he took his staff for a meal.
There is a set of traffic lights on the main road running past the store. A couple of years ago, when he was looking for the right place to open a shop, he was waiting at the lights in a van and at that point he noticed the site.
Now, to make sure they capture the attention of other passing drivers stopped at the lights, his staff regularly set up great big eye-catching displays in the shop windows.
“Whenever someone sees our display, they know there’s something that’s on offer and it gives them a reason to stop,” he says.
But it is also about being opportunist and knowing what other businesses surround you. There is a Showcase cinema further down the road and a lot of people come in to buy pick n’ mix sweets in Serge’s shop before heading to the pictures. He sells them for 79p per 100g – unbeatable value compared to the £2.50 they would have to pay if they bought their sweets at the cinema.
In this corner of West Yorkshire Serge knows everyone – it is where he grew up. Many families in the area remember his grandfather – one of the first Sikhs in Heckmondwike, and the name Notay is a well-known brand in the neighbourhood.
One way Serge repays the community for its loyalty is by holding free events at his store – like the barbecue he put on earlier this summer. Suppliers including Irn-Bru and Kellogg’s helped make the day memorable for Serge’s visitors. As he says, it is always worth asking your suppliers if they can help you with these occasions.
Besides looking after his customers, he also knows the value of working with other independent businesses. Often when people need some loose change to use the un-manned laundrette next door, they come into Serge’s store to buy something. In return, anyone who uses the laundrette gets a free cup of coffee at Nisa.
For the future, Serge has his eyes set on opening another store, but above all the location has to be right. As he says, you have plenty to keep you busy as a retailer, but enjoyment is key – it should always be a case of work hard, play hard.
SHOP AT A GLANCE
- Name: Nisa Local at Notay’s
- Location: Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire
- Size: 1,600 sq ft
- Date trading started: July 2011
- Staff: six • Hours: 7am to 9.30pm Monday to Saturday, 8am to 9.30pm Sunday
- Customer service – it’s got to be great
- Get the right staff and treat them right – make them feel like part of the business
- Love what you do – you need to have passion