‘You can’t stand still in retail; you have to keep business moving’

Nalin Patel has three stores in south London, but when he realised business in one of them was falling he invested £60,000 - and it's already paid off

At the end of last year, Nalin Patel knew he had to do something to turn around one of his three stores.

Nisa Local Mottingham, Mottingham, south-east London
  • Hours: 8am-10pm Monday-Sunday
  • Trading started: 1990
  • Size: 1,600sq ft
  • Staff: A mix of full and part-time
  • Style: A convenience store on a main road in a parade of shops. It benefits from nearby housing and parking outside the store.

Fruit and veg is a category he has added to all three of his stores as he recognises the value it brings.

Food to go is another growth area he’s tapping into and he recommends other stores consider moving into it too. His largest store will get a Subway franchise later this year.“Weekly turnover has gone up by £5,000,” he says. “The main profit is coming from our chillers and freezers.”

With turnover considerably improved in the Mottingham store, as well as a refit in his smallest store adding £3,000 on to weekly takings, Nalin is now looking to expand again.

After 27 years of retailing, he had built up his portfolio to seven stores, but when his wife passed away five years ago, he took a step back, selling four of the shops.

“My son, daughter and son-in-law now work in the business, so I’m looking at getting two or three more stores,” he says. “My daughter really wants to expand, but my son and son-in-law are focused on getting as much profit out of the current stores at the moment.”

For many shop owners, every day is about being on the shop floor, serving customers, but Nalin spends more time overseeing them than dealing with day-to-day running of them.

That’s not to say he doesn’t know exactly what’s going on.

As well as carrying out regular checks of his three stores, he has cameras in every part of each outlet, so he can track what’s happening, which shelves might need restocking and whether more members of staff need to jump on the tills in busy periods – all accessible on his mobile phone.

“I can see every shelf and check that staff are dealing with customers correctly,” he says. “It makes a lot of difference to the business and means I can deal with problems straight away.”

His staff benefit from monthly training across several topics, including hygiene, date checks and underage sales. They also get incentives, such as vouchers, for successful mystery shop visits.

Nalin has faith in his staff to deliver great service and a well-presented store, and his willingness to keep moving his business on means he’s not phased by competition.

“Retail is exciting – every day there’s a new challenge. One of our stores has had to compete with a newly-opened Aldi. It has taken some business away, but we’re changing and adding in new things to make that money back,” he says.

“You can’t stand still in retail; you have to keep the business moving and keep growing it.”


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