With his store in a relatively low-income area and a lot of competition, Jey Sivapalan, from the 1 Stop Convenience Store – Go Local in Derby, knows good value is key.

“A lot of my customers have a planned basket when they come in,” Jey explains. “They know exactly how much they want to spend, and what they expect to get for their money. If we don’t have what they’re looking for at a price they can afford, they’ll go elsewhere.”

For this reason, every product Jey can get price-marked, he does. He also uses offers around his shop to keep prices low. Of course, this presents a challenge when it comes to preserving his store’s margin.

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“If you’re focusing on value products, you need to boost basket spend and footfall to keep your shop’s margin up,” explains Jey, who has run the shop since 2006.

“We focus on always being well stocked throughout our ranges, and having our promotion bays well presented to encourage impulse buys. To drive footfall, we make sure we offer customers everything they need.

“We have everything from traditional convenience store categories like confectionery, alcohol, grocery and tobacco, to lines such as toys, hardware and home choice products like safety pins,” Jey continues.

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He’s found that children’s toys, including things like tennis balls and footballs, and hardware products such as masking and duct tape, have been particularly good sources of impulse buys, while also offering strong margins.

“It’s not just about boosting impulse sales, though,” says Jey. “If customers are certain they can get a product like wallpaper paste, masking tape or a football from you, it’ll drive footfall. This means putting the items in the store somewhere customers will see them, and making sure you’re always well stocked.”

What I do well

With Jey focusing on price-marked products and offering value, high footfall and basket spend are key to keeping his store margin up.

Offering a range of in-store services has been crucial to keeping his footfall strong. “We have PayPoint, an ATM and parcel delivery and collection,” he says.

“These have all been great at bringing people into our shop.” Once customers are in the store, Jey has a range of promotional bays, especially close to the till and entrance, that highlight to customers the special offers that are available.

“A big range and product availability are very important for our store,” he explains. “Our customers look for multibuy options, discounts and price-marked packs. At the same time, we aim to be a one-stop shop, which means customers have to be able to get what they want when they come in – it’s no good if we’re sold out.”

The challenges I face

“We have another convenience store on the same parade of shops as us,” explains Jey. “Staying competitive starts with getting the basics right – that means having good customer service.”

He puts a lot of effort into staff training. With the majority of customers being regulars, it’s vital his staff create a good impression.

“We have customers who come in every day, so it’s important that my staff can make small talk and chat with them. It’s also vital that my staff keep track of what those customers want – to make sure we have what they need,” he says.

“As well as that, I need my staff to be knowledgeable, so I keep them updated on the newest products and offers we’re doing. This means they can answer any questions customers have. I speak to the staff regularly and give feedback on how they’re doing, and advice on solving customer problems.”

How I stay competitive

According to Jey, there’s no point having a comprehensive range if you’re not letting people know about it.

“We send out leaflets to 1,100 local houses every three weeks, to let customers know about the offers we have on new products.”

On top of this, online is also important. Jey has chosen Facebook as the best social media platform for his store.

“About once a week, we’ll post about new products or offers we have on,” he says. “For example, last Christmas we put up a photo of our range of Christmas cards, which got a lot of interaction.”

Jey has found that things the shop does for the local community are another great way to get interaction online.

“Last Christmas, we set up a donation box for Derby City Mission’s food drive. This was really popular with our customers. We got a lot of engagement when we posted about it on Facebook.”

What I’m working on now

“I want to offer a higher value and a more premium option for every line,” Jey reveals.

“In our baked beans, for example, we offer an own-label option and Heinz. Having the recognised brand name is important as it lets customers know where these products are stocked, and it encourages trading up. In chocolate bars, I offer a branded product along with the price-marked £1 Euro Shopper bars,” he continues.

“We’re struggling to do this with cereal, it’s difficult to find a supplier of value ranges. Fortunately, most Kellogg’s boxes are price-marked.”

Jey notes that it’s also important to keep on top of which products are selling well, and delist where necessary. “We recently started stocking a price-marked Bournville £1 bar, which has meant the smaller 65p Bournville bar has stopped selling. We’ll replace it with another Cadbury product.”

Where my biggest profits come from

“In terms of sales, our biggest categories are cigarettes, alcohol and confectionery,” says Jey.

“This changes depending on the season. For example, in summer, soft drinks will perform a lot better for our store. To take advantage of this, we put more in the promotional bays to really get customers’ attention.

“We also stock more multipacks of ice cream during the summer, offering promotions to boost sales.”

Jey continues: “In terms of products that offer us a good margin, seasonal gifts and toys are very strong, as well as being common impulse purchases.

“With the toys, like any category aimed at children, it’s important to know what’s trending at the moment.

“For instance, this year slime is doing well. We found that our suppliers are good at letting us know what’s trending.”

The changes and their impact

“We want to offer customers everything they need from a convenience store,” Jey says. “So, we’re always looking to add new lines to our range.”

This includes a hardware section, a selection of winter clothes such as hats and gloves, cards and news and magazines, alongside regular grocery lines. In summer, they stock a range of summer barbecue products, while in winter they swap this for items such as de-icer, antifreeze and ice-melting salt.

“People expect to find things like de-icer in a petrol station,” Jey continues. “Customers don’t expect to find them in our shop, but when they see we do it, it makes their lives a little easier.”

Of course, knowing what new lines to add to your store isn’t easy. Jey’s found the best solution is to speak to his customers. “If they tell us there’s something they need, we’ll try to get it in stock.”


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