‘The way past owners did business here was wrong’

The owner of a Premier store in Chartham, Kent, speaks to Retail Express about how he made a business successful after its failure under previous owners.

After spending most of his career as a retail manager in London, Tushy Subramaniam left the city lifestyle behind to open a small store in rural Kent.

Located in a quiet housing estate, Tushy’s store relies mostly on local residents – but in the year he has been trading, he has built up a reputation strong enough to draw in shoppers from further afield.

However, the shop he now occupies wasn’t always so successful; Tushy has turned the former Spar around after its failure under a number of previous owners.

“Trading’s going really well,” he says. “The way the past owners did business here was wrong – they stocked it with what they thought was best, not what the customers wanted. A lot of retailers make that mistake.”

‘If I go to a shop and see something new, I want to try it. Using Facebook lets people know it’s there before they even come in’

Tushy avoided making the same error by using a few simple tactics that have helped build his store’s reputation as a community pillar.

“Since I opened, I’ve used Facebook to ask the locals questions about what products they want me to stock,” he says.

“We go out of our way to make sure we know our customers, and most of them follow us on social media.”

New products are a huge focus for Tushy, who uses the store’s Facebook page to let his shoppers know about additions to his range.

“If I go to a shop and see something new, I want to try it,” he says. “Using Facebook lets people know it’s there before they even come in.”

Tushy also gives back by donating to local causes. “When I opened I asked the locals to suggest charities we could collect for. I really wanted at least one of them to be a local cause,” he says.

The store now has boxes that raise funds for the local Brownie group as well as Cancer Research.

“I’ve also got a customer who works for a nearby homeless charity, so I give products nearing expiry to them,” Tushy adds.

Another service Tushy provides began after he noticed that locals’ daily routines meant they were missing deliveries. “Now they arrange for their deliveries to come here, and they pick them up when it’s convenient,” he says. “It’s a service I provide to give back – I’m not getting anything from it.”

Starting his own business wasn’t something Tushy took lightly; in order to ensure his store was up to his high standards, trading commenced a year after the purchase so that the Subramaniams could obtain planning permission and treat the run-down premises to a complete refit.

“I have an in-law who owns a convenience store, and he inspired me to do the same,” Tushy says. “I love how being in this industry gives you the freedom to do what’s right for your business. If you get it right, it can be a huge success.”

One of the first steps towards success was choosing to operate under a symbol group.

“I chose Premier because people in this part of the UK recognise and trust the brand,” he says. “They know what to expect from the store.”

Tushy now has plans to build on his success. “We put a flower stand in front of the shop last week, and within four days they sold out,” he says. “That will become a permanent fixture. I’ve also got an ATM on its way, and once that’s been installed I’ll buy a coffee machine.”


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