In part 10 of a 12-week programme, the IAA – and its category partner Booker Wholesale – help retailer Seelan Thambirajah improve his service to the community

The next part of our weekly guide to improving your business with the IAA focuses on making contributions to your local area. Being active in the community you serve can raise awareness among local residents, drive loyalty and help create a status for being the main grocery destination in the area.

Our category guide on the page opposite will show you how Seelan Thambirajah improved his business with Martyn Parkinson, brand director for Premier at category partner Booker Wholesale, using an action plan based on IAA benchmarking criteria.

Seelan opened his 1,800sq ft shop, located in a suburb of Bedford, at the start of April and transformed it from a rundown newsagent to a modern store at the centre of a local community. The shop’s appearance has improved considerably and also benefits from a customer base which consists of working-class families alongside two nearby schools.

Why I take part

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Seelan says: Having expert information supplied to me and working with the IAA is really valuable because it’s helping me develop my business. It’s useful to have this personal communication.

Before I took over the store, it had been in the local community for years and I want to use the help offered by Booker Wholesale to increase its reputation and make the store stand out further to more customers.

IAA Advice for Seelan

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Seelan’s challenge: Becoming a one-stop shop offering services

Seelan has the advantage of being the only convenience store in the cul-de-sac and attracts residents with core services such as a free cash machine, PayPoint and the National Lottery. Will additional services boost sales?

Martyn says: “Customers based in residential and suburban areas will be especially attracted to products such as a cash machine or PayPoint because they allow them to top-up utilities and other vital services. Seelan has a big opportunity here as the only convenience store in the area and he can build on this by asking customers if they want any additional services.”

Action: Leave a suggestion box by the till for services customers want to see in the shop and encourage staff to ask for their thoughts.

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Seelan’s challenge: Supporting and promoting local initiatives and campaigns

The two primary schools nearby Seelan’s shop, alongside families living close by, give him plenty of opportunity to engage with the local community. How should he decide what is best to support and how to get started?

Martyn says: “Community spirit and special events are really effective way of increasing potential sales. Seelan can establish a relationship with nearby schools to find out if they have any causes the shop can help fundraise for. Not only will the charitable spirit give the store a good reputation, but the schools will likely ask if it can supply any products for future events.”

Action: Speak regularly to headmasters of nearby schools to enquire about opportunities for partnerships and charitable events

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Seelan’s challenge: Sharing his store’s hard work and success

Seelan has a Facebook page for the store, but this is only providing basic information such as opening hours. Can he attract additional footfall by being more proactive with what he posts throughout the week?

Martyn says: Facebook is a powerful tool for attracting customers. Seelan can get free advertising for his store by posting pictures of events he has been involved with, such as photos of the school football team wearing kits donated by the shop. Residents will gain good impressions of the shop and are more likely to tell their friends and family about it.”

Action: Post photos and videos of your involvement with community events and charities on Facebook to raise your profile

Partner advice

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Martyn Parkinson, Brand Director – Premier, Booker Wholesale

“Seelan’s shop benefits from being at the centre of a big working-class community with many families. There are opportunities for him to raise his reputation through more proactive involvement in events, such as school sports days or coffee mornings.”