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In the space of four days earlier this month, Bhavesh Parekh’s Nisa Local in Little Lever, Bolton was raided twice.
Those two robberies – one in which a gang blew up the ATM and the other which saw £9,000 worth of cigarettes stolen – left him with a £54,000 bill, which were a “soul-destroying” experience for a retailer who’d never fallen victim to anything like it before.
He was notified of the first robbery by the alarm company at 1.10am, and found himself with the worst case of déjà vu when told about the second.
“I was at a wedding in Leeds when the second one happened, so had to rush back at 4.30am. It was surreal to see the shop like that again, I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
“I turned up at 1.30am for the first raid and the place was cordoned off as a crime scene. I’d never seen something like that before, so it was a bit of a shock,” he says.
So what happens when a retailer more used to being recognised for his store’s excellence – he has been named in the IAA top 100 stores – faces such adversity? Firstly, his work on building a strong bond with the surrounding area has clearly paid off.
“The local community has been really helpful and been full of kind words and wished us well since the attacks,” Bhavesh says.
Bhavesh Parekh’s store is very much a hub of the Little Lever area and last Sunday he held a fun day to thank residents for their help over the past two weeks.
“Good customer service is very important. We know most of our customers by their first names and it’s important to show them they are not just a number and that we are there to help and care for them.
“There’s a lot of respect between all of us and it was great to see the community rally together on Sunday,” Bhavesh Parekh says.
It is clear that this community spirit, allied to his positive attitude, has helped Bhavesh get through a tough time.
“We are 90% on track in terms of repairing all the damage done, we’re still open for business. We’re going to come back stronger,” he says.
“We’ve kept the shop as it was before the raid, added stronger shutters and improved the CCTV system. We’ve not let it get the better of us.”
That can-do attitude has been instrumental in making the 3,000sq ft store such a success. His attitude to the fact Tesco is right on his doorstep highlights this perfectly.
“It is a challenge but you have to be positive and work out what you can do better than them,” he says.
“You have to piggyback on their footfall and utilise your skills and abilities to do what they do but better than them.”
Bhavesh’s approach is one of trying to be more nimble and being able to change his approach much faster than his big neighbour.
“We have a great range of products, can offer great customer service and do lots of promotions, we can adapt quicker than Tesco and do lots of promotions and good deals all-year round if need be.
“The competition is always tough, but you have to focus on the end goal and concentrate on what you do well.”
The store’s bestsellers are the traditional trio of alcohol, confectionery and soft drinks. However, it is very much a modern-day convenience store, housing a Subway and an in-store bakery. And as with many other shops, is seeing a rise in sales of its healthy produce.
“We have a full range of fruit and veg and six months ago started to sell gluten-free items. That’s the way the market is going and we have to adapt to that. People are eating smarter and healthier,” Bhavesh Parekh says.
With the store back on its feet, he’s now once again able to focus on these vital elements of modern convenience retailing.
“You have to have a positive attitude, keep up the hard work and don’t let events like the robberies grind you down.”
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