Alkesh Pankhania doesn’t profess to be a master mathematician, but building customer loyalty has seen his store’s turnover multiply five times in just 12 years. Nadia Alexandrou reports

 

In the 12 years former IT worker Alkesh Pankhania has owned his Best-one store  in Sunbury-upon-Thames he has managed to multiply his weekly turnover by five times to £15,000. His transformation of the 800sq ft store into a thriving business has been built on continuous innovation and expansion.

By adopting a people-focused approach, customer loyalty became ever more important to the success of the store.

 <figcaption>Offering world food products, like Polish food, could appeal to your customer base</figcaption>” width=”174″ height=”300″> Offering world food products, like Polish food, could appeal to your customer base</figure><p>“In my old job I couldn’t stand sitting behind the desk all day. I love being around people,” says Alkesh. “I just bought an 18 year old Jack Daniel’s for a regular who requested it from me personally.  It was quite a bit of money, but I like catering to all my customers’ needs and try to not let them out of the door without helping them find what they are looking for,” he says.</p><p>It is by this principle that the store keeps niche pet magazine Your Dog  for one customer who, as a consequence, does a fortnightly shop at the store. He also accommodates older customers by offering a home delivery service.</p><p>Another strategy to encourage repeat custom is his use of Best-one’s loyalty card system, making his the only convenience store locally to have one. Customers receive eight points for every £1 spent, and are rewarded with £5 off their next shop after collecting 1,500. “We have 15 customers on this system, and six of them are spending around £300 every 3-4 weeks,” says Alkesh.</p><p>Alkesh has a keen eye for turning any situation into a business opportunity. Three weeks ago he struck a deal with a local greengrocer which doesn’t usually supply smaller stores. Having known the company’s owner for years, Alkesh convinced him to deliver market-fresh small cases and single items to his store.</p><p>“Now I can sell a wider range of fresh fruit and vegetables at the same price as the multiples, with margins of 40%,” he says. Many of the packages come with eye-catching yellow price labels, which has made the £1.39-priced grapes and bundled spring onions for £1 particularly popular. His competitive pricing tactics are supported by Best-one, which has supplied him with price tags that compare prices with Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury.</p><p>[pull_quote_right]We love shouting about our promotions, and I find it brings a lot of new customers in as a result[/pull_quote_right]</p><p>As willing to take risks as any successful entrepreneur, Alkesh introduced mobile phone accessories to the store four weeks ago. “Before they were even out of their boxes, a customer had asked for a charger after seeing our PoS outside. There seems to be high market demand from people who are time pressured.”</p><p>“PoS outside and inside the shop is a very important sales strategy for us. We love shouting about our promotions, and I find it brings a lot of new customers in as a result,” he says. Bestway’s promotions and cheaper prices played a key role in persuading Alkesh to switch to Best-one. That was three years ago and Alkesh has found that the symbol group is a better fit for his shop’s location.</p><p>Over the summer, Alkesh plans to purchase a slush machine. “I spoke to a retailer who had one and her margins are phenomenal,” he says. Having done his research, Alkesh found that syrup costs were minimal. A unit costs between £1,500-£2,000, redeemable within 45 days, which will let him trial with little financial risk.</p><p>In the long term, Alkesh plans a complete revamp. By knocking down the entire back wall to include the corridor behind it, as well as the centre wall, he will take his total floor space up to 1,000sq ft.  Eventually, he plans to replace his chillers and overhead LEDs with energy-saving technology. “It will cost an arm and a leg, but having energy efficient equipment will save a huge amount in the long run.”</p><h2>Visit our store</h2><p><iframe style=