As a third-generation family member to join Neelam, an independent convenience store based in Hillingdon, West London, Gaurave Sood has reinvented the store to match the latest trends.
It was around five years ago, says Gaurave, when competition grew fierce, and several independent stores opened on his parade, including a large Costcutter across the road.
“Previously, we didn’t stock alcohol because we had a dedicated off-licence next to us. However, once the off-licence started to sell grocery items, we knew we had to step it up if we wanted to keep our customers. Introducing alcohol has been one of the best decisions I’ve made,” he explains.
Alongside introducing alcohol, Gaurave says he has heavily invested in American food and drink, a category that has helped sales soar and has transformed his store into
“Last summer, a local company that directly imports American drinks got in touch with us to talk about their range. When they first came to see us, I was apprehensive about stocking so many new lines, because chiller space comes at a premium for us,” says Gaurave. “However, they assured us that if the drinks didn’t sell, they would take the stock back.
“The shop made space for 10 new Fanta lines, including flavours such as Mango, Pineapple and Toronja, and put the price at £1 – they flew off the shelves immediately.
“I was surprised by how well they did, and even though we don’t make huge margins on them, it’s about giving shoppers something new to try,” says Gaurave. “No other shop on the parade did them at first – we were the first ones – but because we still sell them at £1, people come to us for it.”