By creating space and focusing more on fresh and chilled, Asmat Saleem has seen his store’s average basket spend rise to £10-£12. At the heart of his success has been meeting his shoppers’ shifting needs. Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski and Charlie Faulkner report

These days, people don’t know what they’re eating for dinner until the afternoon of the same day – they are looking to shops like us for their chilled products and they will keep coming back.”

This is one of the many ways Fife retailer Asmat Saleem has noticed his customers’ behaviour changing and it’s this shift that’s behind his decision to focus more on fresh and chilled in his 3,000sq ft store.

A year on from opening the store – and after a £150,000 refit – this latest move completes a dramatic transformation for the store and for the Saleem family, who had been a one-site operator for the previous two decades. 

On top of the shift to top-up shopping exemplified by the so-called ‘meal for tonight’ trend, the store is reflecting the growing demand for local and premium products and convenient, modern services.

“We want to promote Scottish suppliers and we find shoppers know the brands so they’re more inclined to buy those products. Our milk is supplied by local dairy Graham’s. It’s a bit more expensive but we stock it because people know where it’s coming from,” he says.

As well as this, the store stocks local products including fruit and vegetables, Galloway cheese and Scottish Borders meats.

And to underline its commitment to the community – in which Asmat has lived for nearly 20 years – the store also offers a popular parcel delivery service through Collect+. There are an average of 50 to 60 deliveries collected or picked up each week and locals travel from up to 10 miles away to use the service.

But perhaps the most striking sign that this is a store that’s looking towards the future is the “beer cave,” an eye-catching 15-metre display that’s responsible for £1,000 of sales per week. Taken alongside the 300-strong wine selection and extensive spirits range, it means alcohol sales sit at nearly £5,000 every week – not that constructing such an in-depth niche offer was cheap.

“We went quite wild on the refit but you may as well spend it once and get it right,” Asmat says.

“The beer cave is something different and it’s more cost-effective because I don’t have multiple compressors running lots of chillers.”

Once again, the changes were also sparked by looking at the way his customers’ behaviour was changing – with many coming in after work and picking up bottles of wine.

Having seen his parents build a business that’s survived the ups and downs of the economy for more than 20 years, Asmat knows he can’t stand still and is already looking at the next profitable opportunity for his business: food to go.

“We do offer a limited range already but from next week I’m getting in Cuisine de France so we can offer things like freshly-baked bread,” he says.

It’s once again a sign Asmat has his finger on the pulse of what shoppers want.

Twinned with these innovations is the fact the store offers much the same product range as any multiple convenience store, and with alcohol and local produce, more. “The new shop has a lot more space and is opened up, which means people can navigate their way through the store more easily. We now offer 10 metres of chilled and take about £3,000 a week just on that.”

The fact that average basket spend has reached £10-£12 is of yet more evidence of this strategy’s wisdom.

With this in mind it’s unsurprising that Asmat is immensely proud of his new business and customer responses (one called the store’s new look “phenomenal”). Further proof of this can be seen in the repeat custom from new faces.

“I think people come back because it’s a nice looking shop and they enjoy the way it feels,” says Asmat.