'Retail is my new passion’
Location: Kirkcaldy, Fife
Hours: 6am-8pm Mon-Sat, 7am-6pm Sun
Staff: Asif and Abada work full time with two part-time staff
Size: 1,000sq ft
Trading since: The shop has been in the family for 35 years
Running a successful shop in what was described as ‘one of the most deprived areas in Scotland’ comes with its challenges, but Asif and Abada Akhtar have put Smeaton Stores firmly at the centre of the community.
The shop in Kirkcaldy, Fife, has been in the family for 35 years, with Asif taking it over from his parents when his father passed away 15 years ago.
“I was going to stay for one or two years and see how the finances looked, then go back to architecture as that was my passion. But 15 years on and I’m still here – this is my new passion,” says Asif.
The shop is surrounded by four children’s homes, a hospital and a psychiatric hospital. “We see people with a range of different needs,” says Abada. “With the psychiatric hospital, we’ve built up trust with the patients and staff, so they prefer them to come here because it’s a safe environment for them.”
Asif says they do all the “usual stuff” for the community – things like sponsoring football teams and fundraising for good causes – but also reach out to do things that make a lasting impression on their customers and the local area.
Just before Christmas last year, the Akhtars found out that one of their customers had cancer and had to have his voicebox removed and both legs amputated, leaving him housebound.
“He really needed an electric wheelchair, so we researched it and found out it would cost £5,000. They couldn’t afford it, so we dug deep and bought it for him,” Asif explains. “The satisfaction from seeing him smiling with tears of joy is the best you can get.”
When the community hall was due to close because of a lack of funding, Asif and Abada stepped in to pay the gas and electricity bills to keep it going. “We held parties there, got more and more people involved to hold more things there and now the council has started pumping money back into it again,” Asif says.
Abada also does regular talks at local schools, most recently discussing different cultures with the children. “Because of the work we’ve done with schools and the length of time we’ve been here, it’s helped make us a big part of the community,” she says.
Away from their community work, the Akhtars have been working on improving the shop to retain their shoppers. Asif says: “The nearby Aldi is killing it, so our challenge is to keep our customers.”
They recently updated their soft drink chillers, installed LED lighting and put chillers on timers to make the store more energy efficient. “I don’t get passing trade, so I have to look for ways to save on overheads and costs,” says Asif. “I’m saving around £150 a month.”
Next on the agenda is to extend the chillers to focus on growing chilled, butchery, and fruit & veg, and expand their food to go.
“We take about £140 a day, selling hot dogs, chips, burgers and pizzas at lunchtime, but we need something that’s an all-day affair,” says Asif. “After I’ve done that I want to get
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