‘Shoppers have to look forward to visiting you’

After being made redundant seven years ago, former Budgens shop manager Emmanuel Okorie took the leap and opened up his own Londis store.


Location: Woking, Surrey

Hours: 7am-9pm

Staff: 6

Size: 730 sq ft

Trading since: 2010

After being made redundant seven years ago, former Budgens shop manager Emmanuel Okorie took the leap and opened up his own Londis store.

The Wych Hill store may be small, but Emmanuel’s three cornerstones of extra small store convenience retailing have allowed him to keep pace with the many larger multiples nearby: Keeping the shop in top shape, high availability and a commitment to customer service.

Every time the door opens it’s clear that not only does Emmanuel know his shoppers, their interests and their families, but his customers know all about his as well. He explains: “People have to look forward to visiting you. You want them to be talking about you to their family and friends after they leave.”

While this increases footfall and shop awareness, his main motive is that he enjoys it. “The greatest thing about a small shop like this is that you know the local people. We talk about everything, from politics to football, and we all help each other out.”

Emmanuel’s approach to retail focuses on utilising Londis’s core ranging and rep advice in most sectors. This leaves the retailer free to focus on being as convenient as a convenience store can be, which he believes goes way beyond a location and format.

For instance, Emmanuel is hesitant to rearrange categories as it can disrupt the shopping experience of his customers. He explains: “Making sure customers know where things are is vital. I think if you move things around, have shortages or change lines too frequently you are creating barriers to bigger baskets.”

However, this doesn’t mean changes aren’t taking place. The shop owner says introducing new services such as SIM cards and parcel collection on top of the hot drinks and lottery terminal he already had bring new customers to the store.

The store is a big success with customers, but Emmanuel says he’s under pressure from competition and wage increases.

The Co-op has been threatening to open a £1m shop in a former pub just a one minute walk away from his store for several years. It’s something Emmanuel has strongly fought against, running petitions, speaking with the council and even obtaining an Asset of Community Value order.

Although the store still hasn’t opened, the threat still looms. “We hear different stories. They are pulling out, they are opening in August, they have been delayed – there’s no concrete news,” he says.

“It’s hard to plan for the future with this uncertainty. I have plans for changes to the store, but I’m wary of investing until I have all the information.”

The other major challenge impacting the store is minimum wage increases, which Emmanuel says are forcing him to work longer hours. The shifts his wife works as a nurse mean cover can be sparse. “It can get very difficult when the kids go back to university,” he says.

However, he soon adds, “It’s difficult, but I can’t help it because I love being my own boss.”

Top tips

Stop, look, listen and learn

Emmanuel says: “It’s easy to become isolated. You don’t see what’s happening in the rest of the market unless you look for it. Get advice from reps, retailers, symbol groups and trade press.”

Balance margin against footfall

Even after the removal of PMPs Emmanuel has kept tobacco at RRP. “I try to maximise margins on all lines, but with tobacco it’s not worth the loss in footfall and customer trust,” he says.

Analyse the value of each category

Consider whether the space allocated to each section is right. He says: “We weren’t getting the most out of our magazines, so we cut them down and added stationery, which performs much better.”

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