Today’s Oakridge Stores: ‘It takes courage to aspire to be better’

A major refit last year meant that husband-and-wife team Roger and Harri Sraw created a store fit for the future, serving an ever changing and occasionally challenging local population.

A major refit last year meant that husband and wife team Roger and Harri Sraw created a store fit for the future, serving an ever changing and occasionally challenging local population.

The decision to redevelop the store followed a string of visits to other newly-redeveloped shops, where the couple realised both the potential in modernising and the risks in staying still. Roger explains:

“We learnt a lot from them. We saw that some convenience stores now are really up there in terms of quality. There was a lot to learn.”

The new store offers bean to cup coffee, an integrated post office counter, slush machines, hot food to go, lottery terminals, specialist foods, plentiful fresh produce and an expanded alcohol range.

It ticks the boxes for every shopper mission. Through a focused and logical design, and a couple of added extras, the store seeks to boost basket spend.

“Beforehand it was everything everywhere, whatever we liked we bought,” says Harri before describing the ethos of the new store as: “Make the core range clear, then add the extras.”

The shop has now increased its basket spend from £5-6 to £7.50, but at the time of the redevelopment the retailers admit they were nervous.

“After 10 years of trading, it can be hard to make such a big leap. With the level of investment needed, it takes courage to aspire to be a better retailer,” says Roger.

The new approach to retailing coincided with a new look for the estate, as investment brought with it changing demographics. Harri says: “We’ve now got a very mixed audience. Long-term unemployed and professionals live side by side. It has its own issues, but its own rewards as well.”

“We find £1 price-marked packs are very popular with some of our audience but others are after quality,” adds Roger.

The best example of this is luxury spirits. Harri says: “We had a heated debate one time when Roger came back with two £90 bottles of vodka, but one of them sold in the first week. I couldn’t believe it.”

However, the shop has also suffered from a recent surge of drug-fuelled crime, with incidents of violence and theft taking place in and around the store.

As some of this specifically targets the new luxury spirits range, the store owners face the difficult task of deciding what and where to stock by balancing loss prevention with customer experience.

Despite the challenges, both Harri and Roger remain firmly committed to their staff and their community, and Roger says his wife goes the extra mile for customers through her work as a sub-postmaster.

“She’s a fantastic asset to the Post Office. English isn’t a first language for many of our customers and she’ll always find the time to go through a document or form with them, or support them with the personal side as well,” he says.

Asked about the impact of minimum wage rises, the couple accept it’s a challenge, but Harri explains: “It is worth it to keep our staff happy, if we had no staff we’d have no shop. Without them we are nothing.”

Top Tips

1. Baskets are a retailer’s best friend Harri explains: “Putting baskets all around the shop is the best way to convert a shopping mission into a larger shop. The basket is the greatest tool a convenience retail has.”

2. Make sure your staff feel safe The couple use a powerful CCTV system and staff guidelines to make sure staff are supported. “We make sure the staff knows the guidelines – protect yourself first, get the shop empty, lock it and don’t open it again until it feels safe,” says Roger.

3. Sugar-free goes beyond soft drinks “We’ve introduced sugar-free snacks, such as biscuits, and they fly off of the shelves. It’s a category that is performing very well for us,” says Roger


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