Baz Jethwa left the family retail business many years ago to strike out on his own. However, a short stint as a financial advisor proved unfulfilling and he returned to retailing, opening his own shop and satisfying his appetite for success. Andrew Lowry reports

Opening his first store 12 years ago was something of a homecoming for Baz Jethwa. “I worked with my family for years, before moving out on my own,” he remembers.

“I worked for some time as a financial advisor. I enjoyed the work, but something wasn’t there.

“I wanted to be independent and do something on my own. You could say that after having grown up around convenience stores, they were my vocation – and I wanted to be my own boss.”

 <figcaption>Baz Jethwa makes £700 a week on coffee. Are you cashing in on additional services?</figcaption>” width=”214″ height=”300″> Baz Jethwa makes £700 a week on coffee. Are you cashing in on additional services?</figure><p>Retail worked out better, with Baz able to open another store six years ago – one that has just received a £400,000 refit, expanding floor space from 1,100 sq ft to 2,500 amid one of the most difficult economic periods of modern times.</p><p>“It’s a confident move, sure, but you have to compete. We have a Lidl, Tesco and Asda all within a mile – I have to undercut them, and people do appreciate it. I work hard on sourcing products at a good price.”</p><p>Taking on the big boys at their own game is core to Baz’s strategy, and it seems to be paying off – weekly turnover has recently soared from £20,000 to £28,000, with customers attracted by how he makes a virtue of what the multiples can’t offer – personality and community integration.</p><p>“We recently had a grand opening for the refit,” he says.  “(stand-up comedian and Phoenix Nights star) Dave Spikey came and opened the shop; we had a bouncy castle; and we raised more than £1,000 for charity.</p><p>“We had an excellent turnout – there were around 1,300 people there. It was such a success, we’re having another one themed around the World Cup.</p><p>“I love that side of it, the marketing. It’s great fun getting all the people together – you really feel like the centre of a community and not just somebody who sells things to them.”</p><p>It’s doubtful that 1,300 people – let alone a comedy legend – would show up to an event organised by a retailer not so important to his local area.</p><p>This intimacy is driven home by staff as well, with the whole experience optimised to the full.</p><p>[pull_quote_right]We have a Lidl, Tesco and Asda all within a mile – I have to undercut them, and people do appreciate it. I work hard on sourcing products at a good price[/pull_quote_right]</p><p>“I impress customer service on my staff – that’s the absolute priority. I make sure they make customers aware of our multibuy deals, for example, and that they drive people to them.</p><p>“People really respond that, they see us as generous and looking after their best interests.</p><p>“This means they’ll spread the word about the store, which is crucial.”</p><p>Also important is understanding shopper behaviour, and best meeting their needs.</p><p>Baz isn’t afraid to experiment and innovate: “We used to just have baskets next to the door as people came in. We now have them in three places, so that if people come in and pick up a few items as they go, they can pick up a basket, which makes them more likely to buy more. It’s little things like that which can make all the difference.”</p><p>New product lines have also proved vital in revitalising Baz’s shop. “We’ve recently moved into fresh produce, food to go and coffee after our revamp. People say it’s posh for our area, but I think quality is what brings people in.</p><p>“Not long ago, people would have thought you were crazy to sell coffee to go in a convenience store, especially a relatively expensive brand like Costa, but it does very well.</p><p>“We sell about £700-worth of coffee in a given week now. It’s so important to think outside the box.</p><p>“You have to be confident to expand, to try new things, and if you’re always innovating and experimenting, you’ll do well.”</p><p>Showing the confidence and appetite for innovation and expansion that shows Baz’s past as a financial advisor was not in vain – this is one retailer where the sums add up.</p><h2>Visit my store</h2><p><iframe style=